NEW NOR­TON V4

PLUS Car­bon BMW S1000RR and new Husq­varna range

Motorcycle News (UK) - - In This Week's Issue - By Richard New­land MCN DEPUTY ED­I­TOR

It’s prov­ing im­pos­si­ble to look away. De­spite try­ing to hold a co­her­ent con­ver­sa­tion with Stu­art Garner, CEO of Nor­ton and the man re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing the leg­endary Bri­tish brand back into ex­is­tence, the glint­ing sil­ver form of the new V4 RR is sim­ply too dis­tract­ing.

But it’s not the bling body­work glint­ing in the sun­shine that’s catch­ing my eye, it’s the sheer level of de­tail, the in­tri­cacy of the de­sign touches, the re­mark­able at­ten­tion to de­tail and the pure metal pornog­ra­phy of it that’s prov­ing so ut­terly cap­ti­vat­ing. This isn’t just a bike, it’s a work of art.

“The new V4 takes Nor­ton for- wards,” says Garner. “When we got the brand we al­ways wanted to be mod­ern and to make mod­ern bikes, but the bud­get and re­sources needed for de­sign en­gi­neers and a sup­ply chain to make a bike that’s not em­bar­rass­ing, some­thing that can stand up against BMW’S RR or a Du­cati Pani­gale, or an R1 or a Blade is just huge. Those guys have spent tens and tens, or hundreds of mil­lions of dol­lars and have ten, twenty, thirty years of de­vel­op­ment be­hind the plat­form – and for us to go into that arena and not be em­bar­rassed is a mas­sive ask.

“We were de­cid­ing en­gine op­tions five to six years ago, as to whether we went in­line four or V4. We got spe­cial­ist en­gi­neers in to help with the de­ci­sion, and we even looked as to whether it could be a triple or a V5. We had a beau­ti­ful sit­u­a­tion where we had a blank sheet of pa­per, and we didn’t have a V-twin plat­form to fol­low like Du­cati, or an in­line-four like the Ja­panese, or a triple plat­form like Tri­umph. So it was ace, be­cause Nor­ton could go in any di­rec­tion we wanted to. So what we tried to do is make an en­gi­neer­ing de­ci­sion on what was best, and then make a brand de­ci­sion on what was best.

“The en­gi­neers did all their cal­cu­la­tions and worked out which con­fig­u­ra­tion gave us the best bal­ance of power, per­for­mance, and pack­ag­ing – which is one of the most im­por­tant things on a bike. And after they’d been through all their met­rics, they ended up with a V4. They then brought that to me, and I had to de­cide what en­gine con­fig­u­ra­tion the next Nor­ton would be. I felt that the space Nor­ton could make the big­gest foot­print and cre­ate an im­pact with an en­gine that we would be­come known for, was a V4.

“I also tried to put my­self in the mind­set and shoes of the de­sign en­gi­neers who made the Manx race bikes back in the 1950s, be­cause what they were do­ing was cut­ting-edge in their day. So we asked ‘what would those guys do now?’ We like to think that they would have done what we’ve done with the V4. And we made that de­ci­sion for the SG1 [TT race bike]. The world didn’t quite get it, but we’d taken that de­ci­sion, and that’s why we put an Aprilia V4 in it.

“We’re mak­ing a brand new mo- tor­cy­cle from scratch and wanted to was to prove as many sec­tions of the bike as quickly and prac­ti­cally and cost-ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble. En­gine, elec­tron­ics and chas­sis are all in­ter­linked; if the en­gine is un­re­li­able I can’t do any­thing, I can’t prove my chas­sis, and I can’t prove the elec­tron­ics. And when we’re us­ing the Isle of Man TT to test our bike, one lap is 37 miles, so I re­ally need that re­li­a­bil­ity.

“So we took the de­ci­sion to use an en­gine that was al­ready proven so that we could de­velop our chas­sis and elec­tron­ics. And now, at TT 2016, we had a chas­sis that was work­ing and we’d got com­plete con­trol of the Bosch IMU, so that our trac­tion con­trol, anti wheelie, launch con­trol, down­shifts, ev­ery­thing – were all con­trolled by

Nor­ton. So with the chas­sis and elec­tron­ics sorted, it was fi­nally time for us to look at our own en­gine.

“It’s been a mas­sive task. When was the last time a ma­jor man­u­fac­turer made a proper clean-sheet su­per­bike? It was prob­a­bly BMW’S S1000RR, or the be­gin­ning of the YZF-R1 or Fire­blade.

“And of course we’d prove ev­ery­thing at a 116mph lap, and it would work, then we’d go to 120mph, and noth­ing would work – it was all scrap. Our rider Ian Mack­man would come in look­ing like he’d done 10 rounds with Muham­mad Ali. He could go faster, he wasn’t at his limit, but he couldn’t wres­tle the damn thing round any faster. So we’d have to go back to de­sign and make the changes we needed to make the next step for­ward. We change the swingarm and go 121mph, and then the front end didn’t work. We’d sort that and go 122mph, then the swingarm didn’t work again. It’s taken from SG3 to SG4 to SG5, so three TTS, to get a se­ri­ous pack­age to­gether. The dif­fer­ence be­tween 3 and 5 is huge – it’s al­most em­bar­rass­ing when we look at it now.

“Man­u­fac­tur­ers have taken the de­vel­op­ment of sports­bikes so far that the mar­ket­ing men have con­vinced buy­ers that they need 200bhp. So now, they’re not mar­ket­ing a bike on its life­style or brand, it’s just a num­bers propo­si­tion. We’re in a great po­si­tion at Nor­ton be­cause we can dif­fer­en­ti­ate here. Nor­ton can of­fer a life­style propo­si­tion with a Dom­i­na­tor, Com­mando, Café Racer, and our num­bers propo­si­tion would

‘When was the last time a ma­jor man­u­fac­turer made an all-new su­per­bike?’

be the new V4 su­per­bike.

“There’s an in­ter­est­ing dilemma for Nor­ton when it comes to scale, and what’s best for the brand. I think that’s sell­ing 4-5000 Nor­tons ev­ery year. We’re sell­ing up to 1000 each year right now, but the V4 will change the game next year, then a year after that we’re look­ing at an­other new en­gine plat­form to change the game again. That will take us to­wards 4000 units, and we will con­tinue to have su­per spe­cial bikes and a race team. We can’t ex­ist off 500 bikes a year, we can too­tle along, but we can’t de­velop the next en­gine on those num­bers. There is a sweet spot be­tween that and high vol­ume sales, and that’s where we’re aim­ing to get to.

“We’ve made the RR to be un­der­stressed, so that we can eas­ily hit 200bhp with­out hav­ing to push the en­gine. That’s one of the rea­sons we went for a 1200, not a 1000, but even so, the bike is very com­pact – smaller phys­i­cally than some of the other 1000s. The bike is su­per­bike size, but the en­gine is over­sized, so we’ve got a stack of torque be­cause we’ve got a big­ger en­gine, which makes it eas­ier to ride and get the most out of.

“One of our strengths here is know­ing what we can do, and what we can’t. That’s how we ended up with Ricardo when we started to de­velop our own V4. We felt we needed to get a glob­ally ex­pe­ri­enced en­gine de­vel­op­ment com­pany in to come and help us. And very luck­ily we had a re­la­tion­ship with VPRO, which ended up be­ing ab­sorbed by Ricardo, and we’ve ended up de­vel­op­ing a re­ally good re­la­tion­ship with them.

“All of the en­gines will be built here in the UK in new en­gine work­shops at Don­ing­ton Hall which are be­ing planned now. We will pro­duce ev­ery­thing other than cast parts, and will make enough of the plat­form to have a good han­dle on the bike, and have some con­trol. What­ever is too dif­fi­cult to do in house at our scale will be bought in. But what we buy in will be world-class, like Öh­lins, Brembo, Bosch – but if we can do it our­selves, we will – it’s a key value for me.

“Since we moved to Don­ing­ton Hall three years ago we’ve grown up so much that we can now cope with a new plat­form. I think fi­nally the job has come to­gether, from a dealer ba­sis, an en­gi­neer­ing ba­sis, ser­vice, parts and war­ranty ba­sis, the new build­ing to house our pro­duc­tion, and the acad­emy to give us a tal­ent pool. We’ve emerged from our early years as a fully-formed mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer. I think if we had brought this V4 to mar­ket three years ago, we’d have fallen over.

“All 200 V4 SS mod­els are al­ready sold, and we’ll make avail­able the first batch of 250 V4 RRS for or­der now. We’ve taken a few or­ders al­ready, and you can or­der one on the stand at Mo­tor­cy­cle Live this week­end – with a few nice ex­tra money-can’t-buy in­cen­tives – like get­ting to set it up in pit­lane at the Isle of Man TT, and get­ting a few laps of the course, too.”

And what the team has cre­ated will be the fastest, most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced and most pow­er­ful Bri­tish pro­duc­tion su­per­bike ever. The lim­ited-edi­tion £44,000 SS ver­sion is be­yond ev­ery­one’s reach as they’re all sold al­ready, but any­one able to part with £28,000 for the V4 RR is un­likely to feel short-changed. Where else can you buy a hand-built Bri­tish su­per­bike with class-lead­ing spec and such an iconic name on the tank?

It’s not just a van­ity project de­signed in a boardroom and punted out as a cyn­i­cal piece of in­co­her­ent de­sign to keep the cof­fers swollen, ei­ther. The en­gi­neer­ing is truly im­pres­sive, and so is the qual­ity, the de­tail, the fit and fin­ish. Go to Mo­tor­cy­cle Live and see it for your­self. Wher­ever you look there’s qual­ity en­gi­neer­ing, blended en­dear­ingly with cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy.

Garner said: “We’ve tried to move the bar with this bike; with the chas­sis, the swingarm, the car­bon, the elec­tron­ics, and a V4 with 1200cc, bang­ing out north of 200bhp. We’ve looked at where the com­pe­ti­tion is, and thought ‘how do we beat it?’ We wanted to cre­ate a bike that’s not lesser spec than the com­pe­ti­tion, but a V4 that is at least where the cream of the mar­ket is to­day, and then go past that. A V4 that de­liv­ers ev­ery­thing with a lit­tle bit more swag­ger, and a lit­tle bit more ex­clu­siv­ity, but with a hand-built fin­ish and ex­clu­sive num­bers.”

“What gets me ev­ery time is the pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm of the Nor­ton team, and I’m so proud that we’ve got the brand back to a sta­ble foot­ing that gives all of us con­fi­dence in the fu­ture.”

‘All 200 V4 SS mod­els are al­ready sold, now we will make avail­able the V4 RR’

Not a fan of sil­ver? This is the V4 SS, com­plete with car­bon fibre wheels. All 200 are al­ready sold, sorry

As de­vel­op­ment mules go, this is rather ex­clu­sive line-up Ð from SG1 to SG5

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