John Player Norton Peter Williams Documentary

Period film looks at the efforts of the JPN team’s assault on the 1973 Isle of Man TT.

December 18, 2012, By Mark Hoyer, Cycle World, VP and Editor-in-Chief

Recent events have put me back in the saddle of a 1974 Norton Commando, so my interest level in the marquee has gotten a bit of a re-boost. As I’ve immersed myself in the history of the machines and people who made them, I came across this documentary called “Race of the Power Bikes,” on the John Player Norton team’s preparation for the 1973 Isle of Man TT. The star figure is Peter Williams, legendary racer/designer who spearheaded the effort. The fact that Peter’s son, Paul, posted the video makes it even cooler.

There is a lot of great stuff in this film, from behind-the-scenes development and testing work to the examination of the inherent weaknesses of the Norton’s design to a study of the “single-minded urge to win at any cost.” And while smoking was far more popular then than it is now, there sure seemed to be an inordinate number of scenes with people lighting up. Product placement in a documentary about a tobacco-sponsored motorcycle? Never!

“Race of the Power Bikes” is just under an hour and features that weighty and almost dry classic British narration of the day with so much good racing footage of interesting vintage bikes that I’ll be cracking an ale and watching it again this evening. Join me?

Peter Williams - Photo courtesy of Jake Hendricks

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