Held annually in May since 1997, Thundersprint is an enormous two day motorcycle event which includes a bike show and a race that takes place in Northwich, Cheshire, England. The bike show is scheduled for the first day, and it usually features well over 100 rare, historic and/or exotic motorcycles from all over the industry.
On the second day fans get the race; it is divided into 10 classes based on the age of the machine, its displacement and, in some cases, the rider. Between all of that there are flyovers by vintage Spitfire fighter planes, sideshows of all types, stalls from various aftermarket and OEM parts and accessories companies, and plenty of entertainment for people of all ages. Attendance at Thundersprint often exceeds 130,000 – not bad for a two day event with no points-paying races or affiliation.
The 2011 event will be a very special one for Norton Motorcycles UK. It will be the very first time that a new 961 Commando-based motorcycle will be raced. British and World Superbike rider Chris Walker, who now works as Sales Manager for Norton, has been handed this opportunity to show the world what Norton has accomplished to this point. The model chosen is the 961 Commando Café Racer, and it has been modified for the race. Norton calls is the “Chris Walker Special” and will sell you a copy for £13,995 (US$21,500).
The engine cases and exhaust have both been turned black and it has been equipped with BST carbon fiber wheels, along with several other carbon bits and pieces. The Chris Walker Special, as a simple naked bike, does a very good job of bringing to mind the classic Norton racers from the so-called ‘golden age’ of motorcycle racing.
Thundersprint brings together classic and modern, exotic and rare motorcycles which compete against one another on a track set up on a large parking lot. The mix of bikes is a perfect place to showcase the new Norton Commando as it possesses many of the design cues of the original marque’s machines and yet updates the running gear with the best currently available.
The Commando will have a good time on the track at the hands of ‘Stalker’, as Walker is known, and should do very well barring any odd twist in fortunes. However, just to see Norton back on a track in competition will make the Commando – and even the 2011 Thundersprint itself – a success. Let’s just hope the sun is shining throughout the 7 – 8 May 2011 weekend.
Written by J.C. Current, Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com