NORTON TT RACER
It came sixth, but is it REALLY any good?
‘It’s scarily fast, making Cadwell Park seem like a go-kart track’ ADAM CHILD
Norton were the target for plenty of scorn and derision when they returned to the Isle of Man TT in 2012 with their first all-new race bike in the modern era.
And although the firm has suffered more than its fair share of lows over the last five years at the island, the team’s resolve – driven by Norton CEO Stuart Garner – is now beginning to pay dividends. And as dramatically larger manufacturers struggled to even make it to the start line, Norton shone through. The small British team were awarded the Technical Excellence award at this year’s TT; both bikes finished the Superbike and Senior races; their worst position was eighth, and both lapped above 130mph – despite limited practice laps. Norton silenced the critics with blistering results – even recording the quickest pitstop in the Senior.
The SG6 is the fastest Norton to ever lap the TT course (at 130.883mph) and is the best Norton of the modern era. MCN grabbed the 220bhp monster as soon as it landed back in England to put it over the UK’S other Mountain course – Cadwell Park.
Bring the noise
The SG6 is a thing of pure beauty – but it’s also a 220bhp beast. It’ll entice you closer with its stunning looks, then bite you on the arse when you’re not looking. The source of all that aggression is a World Superbike-spec Aprilia 60° V4, nestling in the same frame and clothes as the road-going V4 RR. And as the idle settles to a melodically painful tickover, I ram my earplugs in deep, and prepare for the onslaught around one of Britain’s most beautiful circuits.
Hello new friend
I’m given the nod to edge out of the pits and onto the circuit. I’m greeted by a 7in full-colour dash, simply reading rpm, and an array of buttons on the left bar for the rear light, pit lane limiter and two buttons for the traction control (plus and minus). There’s an extra lever, too – which operates the back brake, marking this out as Josh Brookes’ bike. It’s exactly as it was when it crossed the line on Glencrutchery Road at the end of the Senior. The bars are set much further in than I was expecting, which is a surprise as TT bikes normally run wide bars. The clutch feels very heavy, but thankfully won’t be needed once out of pit-lane as the quickshifter/ autoblipper allows for clutchless shifts up and down the race-pattern box.
The riding position – which is shared with the road bike – is more on a par with a BMW S1000RR. You’re no longer sitting in the bike, but on it. The tall TT screen makes it feel larger than it is, but without that it would feel like an S1000RR or Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 – while it’s not as small as Honda’s new Fireblade or an Aprilia RSV4.
The first lap is taken with caution. However, despite the noise, anger and power of the Wsb-powered Norton – it proves instantly user-friendly and softer than I was expecting. Brookes runs it fairly soft on the rear, plus I’m a few kilos heavier than him, helping to smear that fat rear Dunlop into Cadwell’s tarmac.
I’ve never really felt comfortable on any of Norton’s TT racers, but the SG6 is different. Within a few laps we’ve clicked. The V4 pulls hard from low down and has a nice spread of torque in the mid-range. It’s shockingly useable, but at the top-end it just goes bonkers.
The shift light flashes demonically at 14,000rpm as you tap another gear home without shutting off, and a second later you’re at the redline again as your foot goes for another cog. It’s scarily fast. Cadwell Park suddenly feels like a go-kart track. But while the SG6 feels composed here, it must have been frightening in the flat-out fast sections on the Mountain Course.
The Brembo GP4 RR radial brakes are impressive. I didn’t even experiment with Brookes’ thumboperated back brake, just relying on the safe territory of those superb front anchors. There was a slight tendency to back-in, but it always felt predictable – that newfound feedback and ease of use coming to the surface again. I felt comfortable enough to change the traction control levels on the move, reducing the amount of intervention as my confidence increased. With the TC set to level three, it was smoothly controlling the fat 205-section rear Dunlop while allowing me enough freedom to lift the front wheel over the Mountain.
Josh Brookes’ bike was made ready for MCN Brookes blitzed through the 130mph TT lap barrier in the Senior