SIMON SKINNER THE MAN WITH THE PLAN
Simon Skinner is head of design at Norton, and the man from whose brain this stunning new Norton was born. “Getting the geometry of the bike right was a massive challenge, especially as we wanted to make it a 1200,” says Skinner. “It’s a really tricky packaging challenge to get the weight distribution right while using a big V4. From day one we had to get everyone on board to make an engine and package as small as possible.
“You have to start with the end game, then work your way back to achieve it. I had to get Ricardo to stick a square peg in a round hole so that we could build a really compact superbike. And moving to our own engine changed the game massively.
“The Aprilia V4 engine is a 65-degree, ours is 72. Their engine is a 1000cc, ours is a 1200cc. The layout of our engine is very different to theirs, and we’ve used a lot of engineering tricks to make ours more compact. Even though it’s 20% bigger in capacity, with a bigger V-angle, it’s the same size as Aprilia’s in profile.
“Ideally what we needed was a 90-degree V, so you can ditch the balancer shaft, but then you end up with really weird chassis geometry. So the 72-degree is a compromise between chassis geometry, weight distribution and engine performance. A slightly wider V, like ours, also gives a better looking engine, and that’s important further down the line so we can make a naked version. I wanted the engine to be beautiful in its own right.
“The electronics are still in development, but electronics won’t make a bad bike good, they can only make a good one better. So you need a good fundamental bike beneath you, and that’s what we’ve developed at the Isle of Man.
“But this isn’t the TT bike with lights bolted on – this was a cleansheet design. So while this bike came from everything we learnt with the SG5, this is a completely different bike, and will become the basis of next year’s TT bike.
“Engine-wise the output had to begin with a 2. Whether it’s 205, 206, 210bhp – it doesn’t make much difference, but it has to start with a 2. The race system on this bike will give it another 10bhp. The standard road system will have a twin underseat exhaust, and is Euro4 compliant.
“I lost the most sleep over making sure that we could deliver this level of motorcycle from a supply chain and quality point of view, because this really does raise the game for Norton.
“We’ve completely gone to town on making everything real, I don’t want it to be fake style like a new Thruxton R, we had to go another step to make everything a level above. We’ve mixed proper engineering with high technology.
“The Dominator is core to the brand, and if you turn up anywhere on one you’re absolute superstar, and it’s a bit special. But this is a really different project – an allnew Norton. I had to ask myself so many times, ‘What is a new Norton?’, and if Norton had carried on building superbikes from the F1, or Commando 850 days, what would we be building now? I’ve had to fill that gap in, and this is what I think we would be building.
“We’ve beaten all the production constraints into submission to deliver the vision, and it was really awkward at time, but we’ve made it happen. It’s exactly what I wanted.”
‘We’ve beaten all the constraints. The V4 is exactly what I wanted’