CR700W: Ex-Norton Racing Icon Brian Crighton Revives Rotary Engine Race Power


A view of the new rotary engine in the swanky CR700W: a racebikje designed painstakingly by ex-Norton mechanic and design engineer, Brian Crighton (Crighton Norton)

It’s been a month of Ducati’s World Premiere, Buell’s official resurrection of their motorcycle line via the Hammerhead 1190 and watching Harley-Davidson break out in a cold sweat as they wait to hear results of the Eu Tariff Dispute with the US, among other things. 

So much has been happening that we plumb forgot to check up on a new bike we heard about a few weeks ago. As if it weren’t enough that it was built by the brilliant mind and hands of Brian Crighton himself, it also houses a rotary engine gearing to bring new life back to the track.

A view of Brian Crighton (Crighton Norton) himself holding parts of his new rotary engine in the swanky CR700W: a racebikje designed painstakingly by himself

A former mechanic at Norton, Brian Crighton is a U.K. motorcycle engineering expert with a track record…literally. 1973, 74 and 76 saw the man on a self prepared highly modified 4 stroke Honda, securing the British 50cc championship for his team.

Prior to his resignation from Norton (around 1986), JPSNorton tells us that Crighton took on the creation of a rotary-powered bike into his own spare time, working from a caretakers shed outside of the factory until he blew the minds of all involved when his mildly tuned version achieved a speed of 170 mph at a MIRA test ground.

A view of the new rotary engine in the swanky CR700W: a racebikje designed painstakingly by ex-Norton mechanic and design engineer, Brian Crighton (Crighton Norton)

Pre-Y2K (around 1992), the racer built a rotary engined motorcycle line named “Roton”, which won several Australian races.

In short, the dude has been killing it…and now you can see why we were so excited to cover this story. 

A view fo the CR700W: A rotary-powered race bike designed by Brian Crighton (Crighton Norton)

MCN says that the now 73-year-old has been working with rotary aero-engine specialists Rotron Power on this project for the past 12 years – and now, the CR700W has come to life. 

Curious how a rotary engine works? 

A view of the rotary engine in the swanky CR700W: a racebikje designed painstakingly by ex-Norton mechanic and design engineer, Brian Crighton (Crighton Norton)

Wikipedia has the following description of another of his rotary-engined beasts, the CR700P:
“Crighton has further-developed his own machine, designated CR700P, 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.”

A view of the new rotary engine in the swanky CR700W: a racebikje designed painstakingly by ex-Norton mechanic and design engineer, Brian Crighton (Crighton Norton)

“This allows the engine, designated Rotron RT700 (echoing the earlier 1990s era when he also used the term Rotron for his semi-works Norton rotary) to produce 200 bhp and remain within safe working temperatures.”

Naturally, Crighton boasts that his current brainchild features a better power-to-weight ratio than the supersport monsters we see tearing around the track at MotoGP proper. And the specs seems to match his (prejudiced) opinion – the CR700W is capable of 220bhp, pulling the energy from its unique 690cc twin rotor engine. 

A view of the new rotary engine in the swanky CR700W: a racebikje designed painstakingly by ex-Norton mechanic and design engineer, Brian Crighton (Crighton Norton)

“Key structural components have been cast and machined in-house; there’s a novel internal cooling channel and it uses ultra-low friction silicone nitride ceramic apex seals,” notes the report. 

“You also get a bespoke, integrated six-speed gearbox and slipper clutch by Nova Transmissions and, of course, Crighton’s pioneering exhaust ejector system.”

A view of the new rotary engine in the swanky CR700W: a racebikje designed painstakingly by ex-Norton mechanic and design engineer, Brian Crighton (Crighton Norton)

With a dry weight of just 129.5kg and the partnership’s claims of ‘close to zero wear’ due to use of advanced materials, this race bike could very well set new standards for race machine maintenance. 

The CR700W features a lightweight aluminium twin spar frame, “monoshock rear, top spec Brembo brakes, carbon Dymag wheels and a choice of either Ohlins or Biturbo suspension all clad in bespoke carbon fibre bodywork.”

A view of the new rotary engine in the swanky CR700W: a racebikje designed painstakingly by ex-Norton mechanic and design engineer, Brian Crighton (Crighton Norton)

Extra perks include the new internal cooling channel, an ultra-low friction silicone nitride ceramic apex seals, a very nice bespoke, integrated six-speed gearbox, Nova Transmissions’ integrated six-speed gearbox and slipper clutch system, and the unique pioneering exhaust ejector system itself.

All told, the Rotron x Crighton collab will be hand-building 25 units of this ‘ultimate trackday bike’, with each going for the sneeze-worthy price of £85,000 each.

A view of the new rotary engine in the swanky CR700W: a racebikje designed painstakingly by ex-Norton mechanic and design engineer, Brian Crighton (Crighton Norton)

“In so many ways the CR700W is the culmination of my career’s achievements,” Crighton says to MCN. “It encapsulates the absolute best of my engineering wisdom and I believe the result is the ultimate track and racing motorcycle.”

We can’t wait to see a test ride on this thing; in the meantime, be sure to drop a comment below and check out the latest news from MotoGP – and as always, stay safe on the twisties.

2 Comments

  1. Paul Margereson
    November 6, 2021
    Reply

    Great to see what appears to be very a capable Norton, rising from the previous bad press. I wish Brian the very best with his achievement and hope he can eventually challenge the major brands with his ‘baby’!!

    • November 6, 2021
      Reply

      Indeed – and very excited to see the reviews come out!

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