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Mike Nicks: Why Brookes’ decision to race a rotary makes sense

When a class talent such as Josh Brookes goes looking for a Superbike Classic TT ride, you’d think he would aim for a big-name team with a record of podium finishes. So why would he choose a Rotary Norton, a machine as noted for capricious behaviour - as in melting engine - as for Steve Hislop’s 1992 Senior TT win?

Brookes, who scored two sixth places on his return to the TT in June, will race a 588cc Rotary for Wiz Norton Racing, a family band of three Wankel-engine fanatics who are little known outside of Classic TT circles. Rider Richard Wilson has achieved a best placing of 19th in the Classic TT, with a fastest lap of 114.836mph, far below Hislop’s 123.5mph mark 25 years ago.

But in fact the Brookes-Wiz tie-up makes a lot of sense. In the first place, it continues the Norton link. And secondly, the Wilson clan - there's brother Ed and dad Andy as well - build a reliable motorcycle. In four Classic TT races they’ve never had a mechanical retirement.


“We had the bike on the dyno a couple of weeks ago, and it gave 124bhp at the rear wheel,” Andy said. “Back in the day they were pushing 150bhp, and did 192mph at Sulby. But these bikes were not designed to run flat-out for such periods of time as they do at the TT - that's what can ruin engines.

“We have less power, and different ways of monitoring the heat. It's about being careful with the temperature and not trying to get massive power.”

However, the team’s dreams have gone up a couple of gears now that Brookes - who lapped at 130.883mph in June - is on board. There's Hislop’s speed to aim at - and possibly more.

“The bike produces as much power and more torque than a modern 600, so we should be pushing on their lap speeds,” Andy says (the Supersport lap record is 128.666mph). “The engine revs to 10,500rpm, but it's like an electric motor - it pulls from 4000 in a linear path. It just drives and drives.”

There’s also a new Nitron suspension system with a bespoke rear shock, fresh Dymag wheels, brakes from PFM and a more slippery fairing.

The venture expresses the charm of the Classic TT - a top rider can compete on an idiosyncratic motorcycle for fun, without feeling pressured to achieve a podium result.

But still, all teams nurture dreams. “We should pull some surprises out of the bag,” Andy says.

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