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Interview: Harry Norton – from Factory KTM mechanic to team manager in just TWO years

Interview: Harry Norton – from Factory KTM mechanic to team manager in just TWO years

It’s not quite the normal to become a GP mechanic and then be a team manager two years later but that is exactly what Harry Norton has achieved at Factory KTM.

The friendly Aussie came over to Europe just five years ago where he started working as a mechanic and for the 2023 season earned himself a promotion in the team. Little did he know in just another years time he’d land another promotion as he is now the team manager at the Factory KTM team in MXGP.

After Hawkstone International we caught up with Norton to discuss his journey, the KTM GP riders and more.

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GateDrop: Harry, what a journey you’ve had in such a short space of time. I think you were a mechanic three or four years ago…

Norton: Only two!

GateDrop: Wow even quicker than I thought and here you are a team manager of Factory KTM in MXGP. Can you tell us a bit about your journey and did you expect to get this role so quickly?

Norton: No, never, ever ever… I came to Europe five years ago (from Australia), just to be a mechanic and experience Europe. I always wanted to work with a good – the best team. I was lucky that I was working for KTM in Australia so it was one of those, that everything worked out well. I was super lucky to work with Tom Vialle, Dirk Gruebel and Valentina Ragni and that group of people. It has been a pretty cool journey.

GateDrop: The last two team managers, Dirk Gruebel and Antonio Cairoli. Just how much were you able to learn from them? I am sure their guidance helped you in order to get the role…

Norton: A lot. Dirk taught me a lot, he was really great. Tony, as a rider and being able to work with a guy that has 9 world championships, pretty unreal. Also, Joel Smets, you know Joel is like a rock for us and our team. Between those three and then when you throw in Valentina Ragni who has been at the races for twenty five plus years… My big boss, Pit (Beirer), Robert (Jonas) and all those people. It is a pretty cool opportunity.

GateDrop: At the same time though, pretty big boots to fill…

Norton: Definitely. It comes with it’s own type of pressure with 15 MX2 titles in 20 years and you’ve got Jeffrey Herlings, Liam Everts under the awning, Andrea Adamo is the reigning world champion so it is definitely a lot of pressure. But we all do a job a certain way and we all have our process about how we do it. But it is cool.

GateDrop: Just on Hawkstone International today, Jeffrey Herlings made his return, two moto win’s from three. I wasn’t sure what Herlings we would see today but he’s already looking good. Are you pleasantly surprised?

Norton: For sure, awesome. You know, he hasn’t been back on the bike that long and it was a really difficult year last year with injuries. When you combine that with the last couple of years, it has been a really tough off season. The injuries definitely took longer than what we had planned to heal. A couple of holeshots of the starts, obviously not the whole field is here but Febvre, Seewer, Coldenhoff… so yeah, pleasantly surprised. Just another step in getting back to full speed.

Image: Ray Archer

GateDrop: The big positive: a holeshot and then the first 450cc out in the superfinal. That is rare for Jeffrey Herlings so keep doing that (laughs).

Norton: Yeah, mate, we haven’t had a holeshot for a long time. Hopefully we can keep that going. Obviously like I said not the whole field is here but still it is a good confidence boost for him.

GateDrop: Just on Andrea Adamo, I mean last year was just unreal, a dream come true. What has his winter been like? Obviously he is really good in hard pack but the sand, that is probably the area he needs to take a little step forward in?

Norton: Yeah, definitely. If you look at the races from last year, the sand is an area where he did really well compared when you look to the year before. He took a step and I think this year, we have been working a lot on the bike and setting things up for him. I hope that all that works and we can take another step. It is going to be a tight MX2 group this year, there’s quite a few that will feel they can have a piece at it so it’s going to be an interesting year.

Image: Ray Archer

GateDrop: Just on Liam, it is sad about his injury… can you give us an update and if he’ll be in Spain? Also on his winter it looked like he took another step because he was really good in France last weekend in the hard pack…

Norton: It is hopeful (he’ll be in Spain). He had a really really good winter. He did all the right things and we worked on some stuff that we seen last year. He had a great year last year, he was fighting for second in the championship. Unfortunately, he had a few difficulties at the end but I think he took a step. Anytime you can take a couple of years or even a year of good building, good work. It is his second year in the team so that helps. Unfortunately with his injury, we are hopeful he’ll be back in Spain. That is the plan: to do everything we can to be there. But yeah, it’s an injury so we always need to wait.

GateDrop: Last but not least, little crazy Coenen! What has Sacha’s winter been like? He looks a bit taller which has been good and has he been working on the riding style to smooth out a little maybe?

Norton: Yeah I think he has definitely made some steps. He looks more complete, I am not sure he’s grown so much (laughs). He does look more solid and on the bike he doesn’t look as small so if he can put it all together, the boy is fast, he is really fast. If he can keep it on two wheels and keep building and those things he worked on during the winter, he should be good.

GateDrop: Just on Factory KTM, 3 MX2 guys is really good but only 1 MXGP guys and Herlings has got injured a lot, not always his fault but in the future could the team maybe have 2 MXGP riders?

Norton: Yeah, you never know what the future holds. We have a year this year and we have a great bunch of riders. A lot of these guys we are going to have for a long time in the future. How it all looks, I am not sure but we have a great group of people and riders for this year. We are excited.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Images: Ray Archer