The Norton Team arrived at the paddock on the Isle of Man on Friday 25th May, after many weeks preparing for the Senior TT race. SG1 was rolled out of the factory race truck for its debut race at this historic event.
With the weekend to work further on the bike and the engine teething problems the team worked tirelessly ahead of Monday evening’s practice. Unfortunately with the problem identified and fixed, SG1 missed the first practice session by just two minutes – frustrating as this lost us significant track time. However, positive mode soon kicked back in as we were ready for Tuesday’s practice!
Ian ‘Mackers’ Mackman took to the course for the first time on Tuesday and recorded a 112.364mph lap. The first round of feedback from Mackers clearly identified stability issues. The instability manifested as a weave coming from the rear of the bike but with limited time to completely correct the issue, adjustments were made to the swingarm position and a taller screen was called in. This is important to the stability to give protection against the high winds.
The team were getting more familiar with the set up as Wednesday approached and their overwhelming enthusiasm didn’t wane as weather incumbent weather reports raced through the paddock. Back out on the course a similar lap time posted to Tuesday’s session was achieved, but problems over the fast and bumpy sections raised the awareness of this gruelling race. After 75.4 miles of TT riding a better idea of how the bike was responding to the difficult terrain and more adjustments to the rear shock were made to give compliance over bumps. With a softer spring rate in place, we were hoping for a cure in the weave that Mackers was still reporting.
Tuesday 5th June arrived and a late evening practice session was squeezed into a busy schedule, with not much time out Mackers put in a 115mph, an improvement on last week. Mackers remained confident that if more time was available a higher lap time could have been logged.
Wednesday 6th June and the final day of preparation for the most prestigious race of the TT fortnight, The Senior. Mackers reported important feedback from Tuesday evening’s session; the most pressing was the response of the bike under heavy braking but also dropping into slow turns far too quickly. Some ride height adjustments were made but until SG1 rolls out for the race, there is no way of telling if the changes had been effective.
Twenty years ago, Steve Hislop won the Senior on a Norton and this added to the poignancy and true grit determination to get SG1 back out on the course.
Thursday 7th June saw the weather change with fog settling around the mountain section. The temperature started to drop and even though the bike was faster a slower lap time of 111.610 was posted, just as race organisers pulled the session due to the fog. With no time to waste and our exuberant passion to learn, the bike was stripped down and changes made that Mackers has requested.
Race Day – Friday 8th June and ever hopeful that the weather would change Race Control announce the postponement of the race until Saturday! The Team and SG1 were ready to go, so with no room for deflated characters final preparations and checks were done.
Saturday 9th June and the newly announced race day! The persistent rain Friday evening and continuing in the early hours of Saturday morning looked as though the race could yet again be postponed and at worst cancelled!
Midway through Saturday morning with hope in some very wet and heavy hearts, a shortened lightweight race gets underway and a 4 lap Senior is planned…Our hopes are high with successful laps and no breakdowns behind us and having qualified for the race, the tyre warmers were on and were ready to race the six laps…
Rain poured onto the Isle of Man, with no foreseeable let up and for the first time in 105 years the Isle of Man Senior TT Race was cancelled.
We will never know how well Mackers and SG1 would have performed on its’ maiden outing at the 2012 TT, but with 138db of noise and plenty of smoke coming from a series of huge burnouts, a ruined back tyre Norton will take the parade lap for this year!
Norton CEO Stuart Garner said, “Even though we didn’t get to race this has been a great event for Norton. We’ve learned a huge amount, the bike has been reliable and we qualified it to race. The feedback from the rider has been great and we are already getting ready for next year.”
Norton has a reliable bike in SG1, a qualification for the race and a 115mph lap. With a parade lap to boot, 2012 wasn’t a complete washout!
Isle of Man TT 2013 anyone?!!!