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Brian Crighton

Brian Crighton, the brains behind the CR700P, was first introduced to the rotary engine in 1986 after joining Norton Motorcycles as a service engineer. After promotion to the Research and Development department, Brian started to study the rotary engine and gained a deep understanding of its dynamics. He soon realised that he could dramatically increase their 588c air-cooled rotary engines, improving their performance from the current max output of 85hp up to 120hp. The R&D team however, were not convinced.

Unwavering in his determination, Brian managed to convince the Norton management to let him explore his ideas using a discarded engine that had been lying around the workshop. Brian worked effortlessly during his spare time in the caretakers shed to modify the engine using his ideas and engineering the engine to his specifications. The first runs on the dyno showed the engine to produce a power output of up to 120hp, proving his vision and changing the mind of the sceptics.

Brian went on to place his engine into a prototype race bike which achieved a speed of 170 mph at a MIRA test ground in 1987. Later that year, the bike scored a race win at only its second ever race meeting and the Norton factory decided that a proper race development programme should take place and later lead to sponsorship with JPS.

The 1989 season was superb for the JPS Norton team, Steve Spray won the 750cc SuperCup Championship and the British F1 title, Trevor Nation also had some super rides but didn't quite match the results of Spray who set lap records at Donnington Park, Thruxton, Snetterton, Brands Hatch Indy Circuit and Cadwell Park during the season.

Crighton Norton

Having resigned from the Norton factory in September 1990, Brian started working on a new rotary powered race bike, starting from scratch with a blank piece of paper. In March 1991, he unveiled his Roton race bike and rider Steve Spray, who had been sacked from Norton at the end of the 1990 season. After much negotiation with the FIM governing body, the Roton was eventually allowed to compete in the World Championship against the 500cc two-stroke Grand Prix bikes. The season started well with Spray taking a World Championship point in the 500cc Australian Grand Prix and Grant Hodson winning in the F1 race in New South Wales. Back in the UK the development continued but the financial backing was elusive.

In 1992, after having struggled for over a season and a half with budgets to finance the Roton, Brian teamed up with Colin Seeley and between the two of them the fortunes of the team turned around quite quickly. With sponsorship secured from Duckhams, the team was renamed as Crighton Norton. From this point on the team got better and better, Colin Seeley persuaded rider Mark Farmer to ride the bike and the results slowly came in.

For the 1993 season and following the tragic death of Mark Farmer, Jim Moodie took over the race seat at Crighton Norton and kept the momentum going to the point where the team had achieved 22 podium positions for the season. In 1994 the team launched a full scale two rider assault on the domestic championships with riders Phil Borley and Ian Simpson on the now very competitive Crighton Norton. With the demise of the Norton factory team, Crighton Norton were the only British bike team competing against the Japanese and now Italian machinery on the track. Over the 94 season the team scored 52 podium positions, with Ian Simpson winning the British Supercup Championship and Phil Borley taking 3rd spot.

End of an Era

1994 proved to be the last year for the Crighton Norton team but the successes had been testimony to Brian's astonishing achievement and talent for perfecting the rotary engine and motorcycle performance. Brian's race bikes raced against the biggest and best race teams in the UK beating them all using just a fraction of their budget. With the huge success of Brian's rotary engine race bikes came a torrent of political troubles within the race world and after dominating in their final season the rules were changed, excluding rotary engines from competing.

Brian had proved his point; that his ideas and thinking made the bikes go quicker!