Norton RCW588

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Ian Simpson's 1994 Championship-winning Crighton Norton RCW588 in its last guise wearing Duckhams oil company livery displayed at the 2009 TT races

The Norton RCW588 is a works racing motorcycle with a twin-rotor Wankel engine produced for the 1989 to 1994 racing seasons.[1]

Initially sponsored by John Player & Sons, the Norton Rotary achieved significant racing success with riders Steve Spray, Trevor Nation, Robert Dunlop and Ron Haslam, followed by a win at the 1992 Senior TT race by Steve Hislop,[2] and Ian Simpson winning the 1994 British Superbike Championship. The unique Wankel engine configuration measured at a capacity of 588 cc was accepted by the FIM in 1990, allowing the Norton to enter the 500 Grand Prix premier racing class.[3]


Tracing its origins to the motor from the Norton Classic devised and developed by David Garside in the 1970s, the racing engine was nevertheless the creation of Brian Crighton,[4] who joined the Norton factory at Shenstone, Staffordshire in 1984 from a background in electronic engineering to oversee the service department's maintenance of the Norton Commander for the Police Force, and was responsible for establishing Norton's return to racing.[5]

After recognising the engine was capable of producing much more power, Crighton firstly received no backing from Norton management, instead developing the engine in his own time, until sanctioned by the factory in late 1987 with the prototype race bike debuted by Malcolm Heath at Darley Moor. The team won the British Formula One Championship with rider Steve Spray in 1989.[5]

Crighton left Norton in September 1990, following the appointment of Barry Symmons (previously chief of the Honda Britain motorcycle racing squad) as Race Team Manager in early 1990,[6] with Crighton retained for consultancy work.[5] Crighton subsequently developed a shadow-project which he named Roton, again with Spray, which competed in the Australian GP held at Eastern Creek circuit, placing 15th with one World Championship point.[6]

Crighton aspired to pursue backing from Chris Oldfield, an Australian businessman and a potential investor who intended to manufacture the machines and run his own race team with Australian riders Grant Hodson and Wayne Clark.[5]

A limited-production road-going version, the Norton F1, was subsequently derived from the RCW588.

Racing results[edit]

Steve Hislop on the 'White Charger'[8] Norton at 1992 TT race startline

The RCW588 had a number of racing successes at circuits including the Isle of Man TT, Cadwell Park, Mallory Park and Thruxton.[9]

Ian Simpson won the British Superbike Championship in 1994 on a Team Crighton Norton rotary machine with Duckhams sponsorship, an oil brand name owned by BP.[10]


Brian Crighton continued to develop the Rotary Norton NRV588 concept for Stuart Garner, owner of Norton Motorcycles Ltd based at Donington Hall, again using an aluminium twin-spar beam frame and swinging arm by Derbyshire-based frame specialist Spondon Engineering.[7]

Crighton has further-developed his own machine, designated CR700P,[11] with engine chambers enlarged to 700 cc, and using a sealed, pressurised-gas cooling system powered by an external, belt-driven pump circulating the gas through an intercooler mounted in the seat-tailpiece. This allows the engine, designated Rotron RT700,[12] echoing the earlier 1990s era when he also used the term Rotron for his semi-works Norton rotary,[6] to produce 200 bhp and remain within safe working temperatures.


  1. ^ "Norton Rotary Racing Development- Middle Years 1991-1992". Norton Motors Ltd. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  2. ^ Meads, Neil. "JPS Norton - when the British rotary engined racers ruled UK superbikes".
  3. ^ Motor Cycle News (UK weekly newspaper) 12 September 1990, p.25. Go ahead for Norton GP attack, Mat Oxley. Accessed and added 26 October 2015
  4. ^ Meads, Neil. "The JPS Norton Team - JPS Norton".
  5. ^ a b c d Motor Cycle News (UK weekly newspaper) 12 September 1990, pp.cover, 25. Crighton shock for Norton Team, Mat Oxley. Accessed and added 23 October 2015
  6. ^ a b c Motor Cycle News (UK weekly newspaper) 24 April 1991, p.9 Roton's on right track. Accessed and added 23 October 2015
  7. ^ a b Stuart Garner, the New Face of Norton Motorcycles Motorcycle Classics, September/October 2009, Ian Kerr. Retrieved 6 November 2015
  8. ^ Motorcycling mourns Hislop Telegraph, 31 July 2003. Retrieved 18 December 2015
  9. ^ Meads, Neil. "Race Results - JPS Norton".
  10. ^ BP plans to sell Duckhams Independent, 23 February 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2015
  11. ^ CR700P Tbe Bike Retrieved 6 November 2015
  12. ^ RT700 Rotron engine Retrieved 6 November 2015

External links[edit]