It’s always nice to see comebacks in the motorcycle industry, especially for fans of the different brands. In what Norton is concerned, although they’ll most likely never reach their former glory, the modern interpretation of their mid 1990s racer is enough to provide the industry with an accurate impression of how advanced the technology implemented in this model was for its time. And with performance data comparable to that of modern supersport models, we reckon the Brits have little catching up to do.
Brian Crighton is the man behind this project. He originally designed the bike to compete in the 1995 British Supercup championship, but stricter and stricter regulations made it impossible for it to carry on the series of successes that Norton had experienced on the track in the previous years. So the same innovative mind came back to finish the work in 2006, when the NRV 588 prototype was presented.
What we’re dealing with today is a very light (286.6 pounds dry) and powerful Norton racing bike that retains the image, sound and most likely the feel of the past track blast. The engine is a 588cc twin-rotor Wankel type and although derived from what Ian Simpson and Phil Borley would have rely on back in the day, the unit is no stranger to fuel injection and even fly-by-wire throttle. It develops an impressive (for the capacity) 170 bhp and 80 lbs ft of torque, more than enough to call it a modern day racer.
Features such as the Ohlins suspensions and AP brakes, as well as the entire chassis from ground up, are all built with performance in mind, ensuring an overall complete riding experience for the very few lucky ones that get to ride it.
Trying to offer a renewed interpretation of their past racer, Norton hired Harris Performance to design and build the bodywork. The results are simply astonishing because this thing looks like having continuously evolved during the more than a decade of pause.
Starting with the sharp front fender and the shark-like nose, continuing with the immaculate look from the sides and ending with the razor-sharp tail, the NRV 588 Race is all about experiencing as little drag as possible and improve lap times to the maximum.
Because underneath that fender the engine is so compact, it allowed designers to play with curved lines that follow the exhaust pipes. Still, the gas tank and frame are in accordance to what you would have seen on the bike when there was nothing to stop it on the race tracks. Also, the slim seat looks like ready to sacrifice someone’s family jewels, but the fact is that any more material would have ruined the design.
The colors recall Norton’s classic-era Manx GP singles and also add on to the overall sharp look of the bike.
All in all, this is a bike which, despite being as modern as they get, manages to retain the nostalgia of the times when it was a feared opponent for race bikes manufactured by Honda, Yamaha and Ducati. It blends mechanical innovation and unique design, standing out as that one little piece of the puzzle that only now got finished and which shows the great potential of the old, British rotary engine once again.
588cc twin-rotor Wankel type
Fuel injected, direct spray into both bell mouths
Fully variable intake tract to peak maximum torque between 8000-11,000rpm
Electric water pump
Ducted fan air cooling for rotors
Projected at 170 BHP @ 11,500 RPM
Max torque 80 Ibs ft, at variable rpm
Frame:Twin spar aluminium, by Spondon
Front Suspension: Ohlins upside-down fork
Rear Suspension: Ohlins specially made long-stroke single-sided direct connection unit
Brakes: AP Discs with radial mounted front callipers and rear 2 piston brake calliper.
Wheels: Dymag 16.5in
Weight: 130kg (dry)