Ride Rage Radio Interviews Cameron Donald
RRR: Cam firstly welcome back to Australia and I guess you’ve probably taken the last couple of weeks to calm down after what would have been a pretty special Isle of Man TT in 2014 as Norton Factory rider and treated like royalty I imagine.
Cam: “Yeah, g’day guys! It was an amazing experience. It’s been pretty hectic since I’ve been home, trying to catch up, but straight back into training and I can do as much racing as I wanted to so I’ve been busy training and preparing to head back to the UK again.”
RRR: I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed the article that you wrote in Motorcycle Trader about the whole Factory experience, getting over there, a fair bit before the TT and you’re staying in the castle at Donington and essentially living the life of a Factory rider.
Cam: “It was probably similar to how it would have been back in the day, just head over to the workshop and spend time with the guys building the bike every day, I mean that’s something that just never happens with a Japanese manufacturer these days, so that was very special.”
RRR: Tell us about the bike, because it is a pretty special bike that you can’t just rock along to your local dealership and pick one up like this. And yeah, okay, it’s got an engine that’s based on an Aprilia RSV4, but that’s probably about where the similarity finishes.
Cam: “It’s got a full Cosworth electronics package, it’s been built in the UK by Cosworth and Norton built the chassis and put it all together with various components so yeah, it’s quite a special machine and the boys have already been very busy developing something else again with all the information we learned from the TT this year, so been keeping in touch with them every couple of days. Most teams would have barely unpacked the trucks since this year’s TT, but Norton are already building the next bike, so it’s pretty impressive.”
RRR: Now I guess one of the things when we spoke to you earlier on in the year is that you had absolute confidence in the test team that had actually been building the bike up and getting it ready for this event, so it wasn’t just something that was completely untried and tested, people had been riding it and people that you know and respect their riding ability and their judgement as well.
Cam: “Yeah, absolutely, Steve Plater had done a great job with the development, doing some of the donkey work for me, if you like, but I tested the bike extensively when we got there as well, but as you often find, you don’t know how a bike works at the TT until you’re at the TT, and unfortunately it didn’t work as well as we’d hoped when we actually punted it around the Isle of Man Circuit, but we’ve got a wealth of information out of the two weeks and now we’re using that to move on and develop sort of part two to head back again next year and improve on what we did this year.”
RRR: It really is a unique circuit, the Isle of Man, and I think one of the things that was said a couple of years ago that always seems to ring true is the fact that it’s not as if it’s like a short circuit, where you can go out and do ten laps and then come in and make some changes, you go out, you essentially can do one lap and we’ll see you back here in 34 and 3 quarter miles.
Cam: “Exactly. and as I said we tested extensively when I arrived and the last test we did was at Oulton Park, quite a technical track and with some faster sections and it worked so well there, but when we got to the Isle of Man, it worked well but you know, it’s just so much faster than any circuit, it puts so much more strain on the chassis with all the bumps and jumps, so we found our weak points quite quickly and we did what we could to get through the TT and improve the bike there, but there was a couple of things we had to sort of come away from the event to fabricate some more parts and make some big changes for next year, but just really impressive how hard the boys are working. I thought after such a tough TT they might have a break themselves, but definitely not, they’re straight back into it.”
RRR: Well, if one thing, Cam, it was obviously the best looking bike at the TT.
Cam: “Yeah, and the support for the Norton brand over there, it was just… it was humbling to be part of it. The amount of public support was just brilliant and it just kicks your fire up to want to go back and just keep working at this project, because we will get there, and when we do it’s going to be special, because everyone’s behind it, it’s just brilliant.”
RRR: Now that you are a Factory Norton rider, what about the Classic TT coming up, are they going to whip out a Factory special for you there?
Cam: “No, I’m actually going to ride a G50 Matchless and a 7R AJS that I rode last year. So I’ll be back at the Classic TT on those, I will be heading over to New Zealand later in the year to ride Ken McIntosh’s beautiful Manx Morton again, but unfortunately I’ll be up against that instead of riding it at the Classic TT in the couple of weeks time.”
RRR: Well, apart from the looks, Cam, what is the best aspect of the bike as you got at the Isle of Man TT, is it the suspension, is it the engine, is it the chassis or what’s the best thing about it?
Cam: “The adjustability of the chassis, it’s like a Grand Prix Bike, we can change everything from swingarm pivot, engine position, fork offset, it was amazing. During the testing I did over there on the short circuits, a lot of the testing we were doing was making changes to see how the bike responded, so when we got to the TT we could make changes and we knew which way a change would go. Unfortunately the mechanical problems we had over there were just minor. Had a fuel pump in the first race fail, and then in race two actually had a tyre spin on the rim, so that caused the back wheel to vibrate, and by the time we pulled in had found the problem that was all over. So just such minor things, but as I often say, the TT, you know, it’s only once a year, it’s only one bite at the cherry each year, so unfortunately even the smallest failure is going to cost you big-time.”
RRR: The other thing is though too this is the first time that you’ve actually not been riding in multiple classes, did it do anything for you just to sit around and watch during the week or was it incredibly frustrating? Because I know you guys don’t actually like sitting there, watching other people race.
Cam: “No, it was frustrating. It was good to be able to solely focus on the Norton, because it needed that attention and that focus as we were developing the bike, but it was good to go out and watch from the side of the hedge, but I’m a racer – watching other guys going past, thinking, ‘I’d be quicker than that,’ so it was tough, it was fun, I got to go, Josh Waters came over for a loop, so I took him out on the hedge with Niall Mackenzie, another ex-Grand Prix and Super Bike legend and his young lads, we all went out and took him to a few of my favourite spectating spots, so that was good fun, to spend a bit of time with some other racers and mates, but yeah, a bit frustrating.”
RRR: Now, Cam, I guess one of the big things about this deal with Norton is that it’s not only to ride the bike at the Isle of Man TT, but it’s also to act as an ambassador for the brand as it makes its debut here in Australia, how’s all that going and when are they shipping you over one of those very lovely bikes that they’re building that look absolute treat with the Ohlins forks and everything in them?
Cam: “Yeah, there’s a few of the Cafe Racers, they’re magnificent, the Domi racers, there’s only 50 of those built, would have to be the best of the Cafe Racer I’ve ever seen, it’s just magnificent. So I pinched that a couple of times to head out through the English countryside and blast around some lanes, but Frasers are bringing some bikes in, they’re still waiting on them at the moment, it’s just basically supply, it takes a long time, the bike is all built in Britain apart from Ohlins suspension and Brembo brakes, everything’s British-made, which is part of being Norton, is it’s a British motorcycle, but unfortunately true to our waiting on all the part supplies in England, a lot of the stuff takes time, so I’m not sure when the first shipment is arriving, but hopefully soon because I’ve met a lot of Australian spectators over there that have already got their orders in, said it’s quite eager to get a new Norton Cafe Racer so hopefully sooner rather than later.”
RRR: It is. Thanks for joining us on the show today, Cam, it’s always great to talk to you and hopefully we’ll catch up with you soon after you’ve been over to the Classic TT.
Cam: “Yeah, we’re going over there, race some beautiful bikes at the Classic, also do some more testing with the Norton while we’re there and I think we’re going to be lucky enough to sneak out on the TT bike and do a parade lap at the Classic TT, so that should be exciting, so yeah, we’ll get back on the show when we’re home and fill you in on what’s the goss.”
RRR: Excellent work! Thanks, Cam, speak to you soon.
Cam: “Thanks guys, catch you later!”