Oh yes I did – and it wasn’t just any old Norton. It was the first of the new – for the road – rotary Norton F1’s.
I’m pretty sure the year was 1991 and it was just a case of being in the right place at the right time.
I was trundling around on my 600 Honda Revere on ‘open’ roads during practise week at the TT when I found myself behind this black bike being put through it’s paces over the mountain.
The rider followed by a portly gent on a ZZR1100 turned down a side road somewhere up top and parked on a quiet stretch.
You can imagine my surprise when I found that the rider was Chris Dabbs – chief test rider for the MCN and his ‘well built’ partner was James Noble – photograher.
Introductions over – I was dispatched to stop any traffic coming round the next corner while James lay prone on his belly in the middle of the road as Chris rode full bore towards him – swerving to clear this human traffic island at the last minute. Hairy – barely covers it.
There was another surprise in store for me when Chris told me my reward for helping was to take the F1 for a ride. I didn’t need two tellings! I had seen the disapproving ‘NO’ forming on the photographer’s lips and in two shakes of the lambs tail I was off over the mountain course like a noisy whippet!
Must admit I wasn’t too impressed with the Norton. Firmly suspended on her bespoke Ohlins she felt light as a 250cc two stroke and revved out to 10500 rpm with no apparent power band – just smooth linear power all the way.
Nowt much wrong with that – but – there was a downside.
I was heading past the Bungalow – over the tram lines and asking for everything she’s got in my best imitation of works rider Trevor Nation as I raced towards that blind fast left at the top when the two plastic screws used by Arai at the time to fix the righthand side of my visor went awol!
I was about blinded by the thing flapping about in the turbulence!
It was the wake up call I needed and I quietly turned her round – ripped off the damaged visor and took the F1 back to Chris where I found that the fixing screws had sheared.
My helmet had been serviced by the Arai team in the paddock the day before so I doubt if the screws sheared due to over-tightning. At the time I put it down to the very intrusive high-frequency vibration from the bike as it went through 9000 rpm – not something that I enjoyed as it rattled my eyeballs. I was beginning to understand why Chris was so pleased to get off the rotary Norton for a few minutes.
Many thanks to Chris and James for a memory to treasure and to Top Speed and Classics for the use of their pics 🙂