Rotary Racing Development- The End 1992-94
By the end of 1992, Imperial Tobaccos decided to end the sponsorship of the Norton works team,
certainly because they realized there was no "works". They must
have had similar experiences with the CEO David Macdonald, who was once
described to the author as a "stranger to the truth"; certainly a
man who made unrealistic promises, probably for want of better insight! By
the end of 1993, the sad remains of Norton Group PLC, i.e. Norton Motors
Ltd, were sold to Canadian wheeler-dealers, and if under the previous
regime at least the illusion of an ongoing business was being maintained,
as soon as Rosie Scandalia moved into a factory office there was no
question of investment into the business any more- only the question how
to get money out of it!
Before this background Brian Crighton teamed up with Colin Seeley towards
the end of the 1992 season. Colin
saw the potential of the Norton Rotary Racers, and brought a pool of
sponsors together, headed by Duckhams Oils, to race on a national level.
This they did for the following two seasons, with a string of sucesses that were
impressive though not, strictly speaking, fair from a technical point of
view- they did compete with what were after all purpose-built race
prototypes in production-bike based racing classes.
As the situation deteriorated in the factory, Seeley became more and more
nervous of the continuing availability of engine parts, even ringing the
author in Germany once (this was in late summer 1994) to ask how far the
plan to take over the rotary spares operation had advanced (it took us
another nine years to succeed!). In the end, the Duckhams Norton Team
switched to Hondas, but as soon as Crighton had to switch from the Norton
Rotaries he loved to RC45s and the following year to Ducati, the days of glory were over and at the end of
the 1996 season the Duckhams team under Colin Seeley called it a day.
Often, the Duckhams machines are described as "Works Nortons",
but this they were not. They were motorcycles built by a private team
using Norton engine components, sanctioned and to a certain extent
supported by the sinking factory.Initially, they were not even, strictly speaking,
"Norton"s- though, to be fair, based on Nortons racing
development and racing technology, but "Rotons". The owners of
the Norton assets (i.e. the
Canadians) sanctioned the use of the "Norton" name, hoping to get a sale of the Norton factory from the publicity!