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Norton NRV588 at Bonneville: Faster!

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It’s day 6 for Stuart Garner’s attempt to set a speed record for the Norton rotary engined NRV588 racing bike at the Bonneville Salt Flats.  And on day six, Garner broke through 170MPH on the salt.

The power is fed in crisply but not over-enthusiastically, no wheel-spin, no ‘rooster-tail’ of spun-up salt to dramatise the launch but at the risk of excessive tyre wear, just Stuart sailing sublimely into the distance, his progress marked by a series of sharp, snarling applications of power between cog-shifts – the Rotary really does sound superb, a curious mix of the banshee wail of the 500cc stroker Grand Prix bikes of yore, and the deeper, more gutteral snarls of modern MotoGP machinery.

We wait with bated breath for the marshal’s now-restored-to-life walkie-talkie to crackle with our news – “Bike 747, 173mph” – !!!!!!!

I’ve never been on anything–except an airplane–that went faster than 170MPH.  The fastest I’ve ever been on a motorcycle is an indicated 130MPH.  That was for about 5 seconds.  173 miles per hour must be quite a rush.  And that’s 173 MPH on salt, so, that means that on asphalt, the NRV588 would be even faster, because the loose salt surface scrubs speed.

All the local experts say the same; running on the slightly loose salt knocks at least 10% off the speed one could expect on asphalt, so our 173 translates into an equivalent 192mph. Then factor in the 7000 foot altitude, and the thin air we’re all, including the NRV588 Rotary Norton, breathing and one can clearly see well over 200mph from this, our ‘baby’ rotary.

Well, OK, but I think that’s a theoretical speed.  I’m not sure wind resistance at lower altitudes would allow that.  Even for a small motorcycle, at 190MPH, you really do have to push quite a lot of air our of the way.  200MPH+ at sea level?

I think I’m gonna need to actually see that happen before I sign onto that prediction.

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