The title-winning MotoGP engine that also won a Formula 1 world championship

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Norton was the dominant name in motorcycle racing in the first half of the first century of the internal combustion engine: dozens of TT victories on the Isle of Man, as well as world championship successes in the 350cc and MotoGP classes . (Yes, the class was called 500cc back then.)

All of these successes were achieved with single-cylinder engines from the Birmingham factory, particularly the first overhead camshaft engine designed by Walter Moore in the 1920s. Moore was so keen to understand what was required of engines at the TT – the most important motorcycle race in the world at the time – that he became a passenger in a sidecar, so that he could study Norton’s current engine from the nearest quarters.

Moore won the 1924 TT sidecar and used what he learned during that race to help design his overhead camshaft engine – labeled the CS1 (Camshaft Senior Model 1) – which won his first race, the 1927 Senior TT, with Alec Bennett aboard. Bennett was an Irishman whose family had emigrated to Canada in the early 1900s. He returned to Europe to fight in the First World War, first as a dispatch rider and then as a fighter pilot. He then moved to Britain and became a Norton factory rider.

Kuźmicki traveled much of the way from Uzbekistan to Bombay, then boarded a boat for Blackpool.

Either way, Norton’s successes in Grand Prix racing – seven World Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships between 1950 and 1952 – were so impressive that it didn’t take a genius to realize that four ends Superior Norton 500cc could be brought together to create a two-litre Formula 1 engine.

It was the bright idea of ​​Tony Vandervell, a British industrialist who had raced motorcycles and cars in his youth. Vandervell’s business was thin-walled motor bearings, so his Formula 1 team was named Vanwall.

Vandervell, “a badass, ready to fight”, wanted to build a British F1 car, painted in British green, which would beat Italy’s blood-red Ferraris.

Kuźmicki’s Vanwall F1 engine, with four Norton top ends standing and sitting on Rolls-Royce crankcases.

Bernard Cahier/Getty Images

He hired Polish engineer Norton Leo Kuźmicki to design his engine. Kuźmicki, like the TT Bennett winner before him, had seen his life transformed by the war.

Kuźmicki was a mechanical engineer and an officer in the Polish Air Force. In August 1939, he was captured during the Russian invasion of Poland and sent to a labor camp in Uzbekistan, run by the NKVD, the vicious Russian secret service.

He remained there for nearly two years, beaten and brutalized until Germany invaded Russia and Stalin switched sides to join the Allies. Poland was therefore now an ally and hundreds of thousands of Polish prisoners of war were freed. Kuźmicki traveled from Uzbekistan to Bombay in India, walking much of the way, where he boarded a boat for Blackpool.


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