Classic Racer



Dear CR

I really enjoyed Alan Cathcart’s history on the wonderful rotary racers which graced (mainly) British tracks in the 1980s and 90s.

I’m well into my fifties now (maybe I’m a youngster for a reader) but I spent many a good, fun and often long weekend with my uncle heading around the UK to watch bike racing both locally and nationally from the early 1980s into the present day. For me, one of the golden eras of the UK scene was when the Nortons and Rotons were seen and heard on British tracks – it was magical!

I always remember going into the paddocks over the years when the rotaries were racing and you’d sometimes have some of the other ‘non-rotary’ riders complain a little, or hint that they felt the bike should not compete or be eligible – but to be fair, it all added to the show. I well recall the likes of James Whitham being blitzed by the JPS Nortons in 1991 or 1992 I think – and probably the Team Green Kawasakis as well. You’d almost see him come home 4th or 5th or something and shrug as if to say: ‘That’s about as good as I can do against these rocket-ships!’

My own experience of a rotary thankfully wasn’t riding the Interpol cop bike the race motor was derived from (or being chased by one) but rather a mate who bought (yes, you read that right) a Norton F1 rotary ‘race replica’. I can’t recall how much he spent on it, but it was a fair bit of wedge: it looked the part in the black/gold paintwork of the fab sponsors and I think it was the version that had the gold Astralite wheels. I was riding around on my Kawasaki ZXR750J at the time (the one which was 100bhp) but – even with that strangulat­ion – I wasn’t that impressed with the road manners and speed of that F1! Still, at least I can say I got a go on one…

Dave Donaldson

The Editor says: “Aye, the rotaries sum up a particular era of British bike racing, eh Dave?”

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