1972 Norton Dirt-Tracker
David Aldana’s racer
Normally, a racer would point to an impressive resume to get some factory support.
But in 1973, David Aldana had another thing going for him when he approached the U.S. Norton importer for some help with his racing program: this bike.
OK, Aldana’s race resume didn’t hurt. He had three Grand National Championship race victories and two top-five finishes in the series to fall back on. But it was this racebike, based on a 750cc Norton powerplant, that helped cement the deal between Aldana and the U.S. Norton distributor at the beginning of the 1973 racing season.
The bike was built by Nick Deligianis, one of the tuners for Gene Romero when Romero won the Grand National Championship in 1970 aboard a Triumph. It features a Trackmaster frame; a Ceriani road-race fork; Amal GP carbs; Axtell heads, cam and ignition; and Chrysler marine coils. The solo seat has a fender-pad extension so Aldana could slide his weight back, and the fiberglass tank was custom painted by Dark Horse Color.
The engine also had one trick element that Deligianis remembers was particularly useful:
“We had a trap door,” he says, “so we could pull the cam without splitting the cases.”
Aldana campaigned the bike in local races, where, he says, it was pretty competitive. So he took it to the Norton importers in Long Beach, California, and showed them what could be done with their machine.
“They wanted us to go on the National circuit,” Aldana says. “They bought us a van, gave us a little money, and got in touch with Norton in England to get us some motors.”
That connection resulted in the creation of a second bike, built around a factory motor. And on July 21, 1973, Aldana won the Ascot TT in Gardena, California, on that machine. It marked the first major U.S. victory for Norton since the Grand National Series was founded in 1954.
Aldana finished that season ranked eighth in the standings, but Norton’s involvement in the Grand National Series wouldn’t last. The company was slowly sinking under the increasing weight of several mergers with less-profitable British brands.
Five years later, Alex Jorgensen would give Norton its last Grand National victory, on the half-mile track at Ascot Park.