1972 750cc John Player Special
The first motorcycle racing team to be backed
by a major brand name was the John Player Norton
equipe, which contested Formula 750 events from
1972 to 1974 with sponsorship from Imperial
Tobacco, maker of Player's cigarettes. It was
also the first Norton factory team seen in action
for decades, revitalising the marque and taking
on stiff foreign opposition.
Based in ex-military buildings at the Thruxton
race circuit in Hampshire, the JPN team was
set up by Norton Villiers in November 1971 and
managed by ex-grand prix racer Frank Perris.
After a winter of intensive work it wheeled
out sleek, low-slung Formula 750 racers.
Their design was overseen by Peter Williams,
a top-flight road racerand talented engineer
whose father Jack ran AMC's race shop in the
fifties. In 1971, Peter had created an effective
racer around the Norton Commando roadster's
power unit and it formed the basis for the more
refined 1972 contender.
Williams knew other F750 teams has more engine
power, so he concentrated on achieving superior
handling and aerodynamics using a mini version
of the Commando tubular frame, a pannier fule
tank to keep weight low and wind tunnel-designed
The team's number one rider was Phil Read,
who took promising fourth places at Daytona
in the USA and Imola in Italy. He was also the
second highest point scorer for the victorious
British team in the Transatlantic Match Races.
Later in 1972, outright wins were scored by
Williams in the Brands Hatch Huntchinson 100
and Mick Grant at the Scarborough International.
All three Player Nortons in the Formula 750
TT retired and the machine's weaknesses, mainly
in the transmission, were addresses in a major
re-design for 1973.