A pleasant surprise and milestone reached

The Rowe Racing team is now ready and waiting for tomorrow’s race after another successful practice tonight. The morning got off to another tedious start after the marshal communication system broke down, taking until 1pm to fix. This resulted in the scheduled 10.30am 350cc Classic TT race to be pushed back to a 2pm start, with Royce’s practice therefore moved back a few hours to 7.15pm.

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While anxiously waiting as the sun shone through the cottages, a call came through from fellow Adelaidian John Chiodi informing the team our name had been called to report to technical inspection immediately. Presuming more bad news, the team rushed to pack the bike and tore down to the paddock. Emerging with smiles, the team had actually been notified that the perpetual “Best Presented Bike” trophy had been won by the Rowe Racing Team.

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Pic: The 2015 “Best Presented Bike” trophy being awarded to the Rowe Racing Team by ten-time TT race winner Bruce Anstey.

The trophy is given in the opinion of the technical offcials, with the head scrutineer remarking that he wished all teams would be as prepared and well-presented as us – a testament to Brian Rosser and his immaculate Ducati. This award takes every team within the meeting into account – over 400 entrants, including other impeccable classic motorcycles bred just for this two week venture.

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Pic: The other half of the Rowe Racing Team
Setting out on a two lap venture, Royce reaffirmed his strong position in the Newcomers class by finishing third fastest with a 101.5 mph lap – finally breaking the 100 mph barrier from a standing start. This confirms the idea that Royce will hopefully be on par with the front-runners in his race tomorrow.

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Pic: Royce launching over Ballaugh Bridge
The team is now prepped and ready for the Newcomers race tomorrow afternoon at 2pm IOM time (10.30pm Adelaide time). For those playing along at home, listen to the race live by visiting http://www.manxradio.com/on-air/vauxhall-radio-tt/ for live commentary. It may be a late night, but hey, you did it for the ashes and this time we might actually see an Aussie team who beat the poms!

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Onward and upwards for Rowe Racing

Saturday night practice set off at 7pm after a full day of classic racing on the Isle. Just like previous nights, Royce’s Newcomer B group was last to be released, but was still first off the line thanks to the persistent work of pit crew members Locky and Phil. After lots of hard work from team and rider, finally experts in the pits have started noticing the Ducati performing on par, if not better, against the Kawasaki ER-6 which the Supertwins class was basically built around.

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Pic: The Rowe Racing team continues to grow

Managing two laps around the circuit, Royce built on confidence made throughout a turbulent week in his first Island experience. Taking off from a standing start, Royce set a 99 mph lap, similar to the past couple of nights. Hoping to break the 100 mph barrier, his flying lap started with a blisteringly quick first sector. Hoping to carry this determination for the rest of the lap, he swept into the mountain to be met with held yellow flags – a cautionary measure which he thought was due to an accident, but actually was needed for the terrible fog rolling over the hills. Although this slowed Royce down, he still came back to the pits with a 99.5 mph lap posted – achingly close to the 100 mph barrier. The team was still stoked with the result as this bumped him up to second fastest in the Newcomers B group, an amazing result against local and far more experienced riders. Talking us through the lap – as the majority of us will never be lucky enough to fang around the famous mountain course – Royce describes the frustration of being caught behind riders and flags:

“Once the noisy Norton parade had finished I was rolled up to the start line to start my stand still lap. Getting around a few slower bikes coming into the scary Ballagary, made things a bit hairy! But it still gave me big smiles. Coming into the hard braking Ballacraine, the Mallala hairpin experience came in handy going past a few more riders. The bike felt good after a few changes to the steering damper, making the front of the bike move around a lot less, but I was still able to turn in to corners easy.

Going down Sulby Straight after changing the timing in the bike, we’re going 8 km/h faster through the speed trap this session than yesterday, which is great to see for the Ducati. Making my way up and through the mountain section, I’m slowly learning which corner is coming next, even though there are a few corners similar to another I need to know which one is which to be able to keep the throttle pinned.

The first lap felt good with a 99.5mph with a standing start but unfortunately the second lap was over before it began with fog over the mountain. I couldn’t see 20 metres in front so I had to slow down not knowing the track off by heart yet. The marshals displayed yellow flags over the whole mountain to get the riders to slow down, so I buttoned off until I came out of the fog. Still getting another 99.5 lap with the fog I was pretty chuffed and I think cracking the 100 mph lap is just around the corner.”

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Pic: Royce on the gas

Due to the cancellation of practice sessions earlier this week, all races have been pushed back to allow the Newcomers more time out on the track to accumulate laps. This leaves the team with a Monday practice, then the two races on Tuesday and Wednesday. With a free day tomorrow, being the holy day, the team will head out for some more track testing… at the local pubs. Some very lengthy analysis of local brews will be conducted, leaving no stone (beer tap) unturned. Check back for some riveting reviews from the crew!

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Pic: Royce storming through Hillbery

Pieces of the puzzle falling into place

Perfect conditions faced the Rowe Racing Team on Friday night for the last weekday practice. After a successful previous night’s practice, Royce jumped on-board the Ducati with his nerves replaced by a bold determination.

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Pic: Royce eyeing down the white line (Photo: Paul Kane)

The team scrambled to gain front position for practice out of parc ferme, having to allow the Classics enter the track first, while Royce’s group of Newcomers were let out last. So although the session began at 6.20pm, Royce didn’t leave the line until at least 6.40pm.
Managing to find a nice groove and less crowded group, Royce posted a 97 mph lap from a standing start – three miles per-hour faster than yesterday’s flying lap. The preparation had paid off, as Royce came into his element and posted a 99 mph lap on his second time around the mountain course.

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Pic: The Ducati being put through its paces

Hoping to squeeze one more lap in, Royce pulled through the pits to re-fuel with only one minute left before the practice was to be red-flagged. The crew put their practice into action and pushed Royce out with seconds to spare.
He returned to the paddock with a 97 mph lap, setting a very respectable average over the hour session. The main positive to take out of the day was Royce’s guaranteed qualification into next weeks races. He has not only put together enough laps, but his times are also well beyond the cut off.
Tomorrow sees the team head out for practice at 7pm – a long wait in the paddock with racing beginning earlier than usual at 12 noon.

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Pic: Powering through Braddan Bridge

Good things come to those who wait

After a tedious two days of twiddling his thumbs, Royce finally got the chance to hit the track for a flying lap tonight. The pit crew have become well rehearsed in wheeling the Ducati to the starters gates before being turned back, so everything was set and well organised to make the most of the hot lap.

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Pic: Our home away from home

Royce certainly made the most of his time out there, clocking a 94 mph lap – the fifth fastest in his Newcomers B Group. You can read about the rest of the newcomers results here: http://roadracingnews.co.uk/manx-grand-prix-2015-newcomers-impress-during-thursday-night-practice/.
Royce was obviously stoked with his results and had this to say:

“After a few frustrating days of cancelled practice, it was great to get out for my third lap around the track on the Ducati. With better gearing, the bike was able to get into 6th gear and feel a bit better on the long straights. Everything was starting to string together with only one little ‘moment’ around Brandywell after going in a bit too tight which sent me out wide. I found this particular gutter can work as a berm but after a small heart attack, I don’t really wanna test any others. I was surprised to see my lap as a 94 mph lap but I’m over the moon with still plenty to give and plenty to learn.”

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Pic: Royce passing the Railway Inn at Union Mills
When not in the pits, Royce has either been watching on-board footage or going for laps during the day on his road legal Suzuki GSX-R600. All of this is in the hope of making the track feel like second nature to him – a tough task for a 37.733 mile course against locals who commute the roads every day.

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Pic: Practice laps on-board the Suzuki

With weather permitting, Royce has his next practice scheduled for Friday night, again on Saturday afternoon, then a lengthy final practice on Monday. No racing is permitted on the holy day, so Tuesday will see Royce finally lose the fluro-orange Newcomer vest to mix it with the big boys. Royce will be sporting number 58 for the Newcomers race, which although includes all groups, is basically three races-in-one for Newcomer Groups A, B and C. Royce then swaps to number 55 for his one and only Supertwins race on Wednesday. Onwards and upwards from here!

Frustration builds after another practice cancelled

Weather has halted two practice sessions in a row these past nights, leaving the team holding their breath in pit lane all dressed up with nowhere to go. The team has been doing everything possible to keep momentum after the successful initial run, but unfortunately nothing can compare to real track time. There’s now a running joke around the paddock that us Aussies have spent more on beer than petrol so far!

To help with setup and gearing, team mechanics Brian and Greg set out on a flying lap overnight to give the data-logger used on the Ducati a better grasp of sector lengths, corners and so on. Not quite a 120 mph lap, but it would have guaranteed a podium in the Manx Hire-Car TT.

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Pic: Andrea Hawley
Tuesday afternoon turned out to be sunny and fresh, obviously irritating the waiting racer in Royce. But right on cue, the thick blanket of fog rolled in around 7pm showing just how quick things can turn for the worst on the island. Similarly, Wednesday night was dreary before turning downright miserable as the blanket was pulled over the mountain once again. All very disappointing when sweating in full sun around the track earlier that day.

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Pic: Waiting for weather updates… again
With nothing to do but sulk, the team headed out for supplies. When trawling the Douglas Shopping Mall, we stumbled across current TT lap record holder John McGuinness – talk about being in the right place at the right time!

The 23-time TT winner, only second to the immortal Joey Dunlop, was extremely down to earth. He was happy to give Royce some tips on the course and general hints about how things tick a bit differently on the Island as opposed to a normal circuit meeting. John will be competing in the 500 Classic TT on a Paton 500, which he said although may be slower in a straight line, still carries the same corner speed as his superbike – a daunting thought after looking at the skinny tyres underneath him!

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Technically, Royce needs to complete six laps of the circuit over the practice week to qualify for his races, regardless of what lap time he sets. Thursday is set to be fine and sunny, so fingers crossed he can begin ticking them off.

Practice makes perfect for young Aussie

The first Manx GP practice has been run with pleasing results. After more waiting time than we would have liked, the newcomers were first to leave the start line in small groups led by TT stalwarts. Although controlled, the speed was still only a fraction slower than race pace.

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Pic: Royce launching into the Hillberry sweeper for the first time.

After years of anticipation, Royce utilised his pedantic study of the track to clock in a 94 mph lap on his first open ride after the control lap. Although only being early days, the team has high hopes for his first GP attempt. He had this to say:

“In the pits there were hundreds of bikes before I went out. I had an army of butterflies in my stomach. After a quick nervous wee, I was ready to go and we were out. Flying down Bray Hill I had the biggest smile on my face and then over Ballaugh Bridge I laughed with giddy joy. The bumps were a bit horrific, but I found to just hold on and ride them out. The Ducati felt great with good pull out of the tight corners. We need to work on the gearing a bit but that will come when I get a bit faster! I found myself peeking my head through corners a bit while trying to find out exactly where on the track I was, as many corners look very similar. I still have lots to learn. I can’t wait until I’m out next, though!”

Royce was also lucky enough to score an interview with Manx Radio, the live local station which covers the TT and Manx GP with full coverage of the racing. For fans back in Australia brave enough to stay up through the night, visit http://www.manxradio.com/radioplayer/ for live coverage. We will update the blog with racing times later this week so everyone can follow online.

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Pic: Royce next off the start line.

For more info on the race itself, plus actual results after the racing, visit http://www.manxgrandprix.org/ for all the updates on not only our race, but the Classic and Junior/Senior GP racing. The Aussie contingent will be cheering hard from here on…

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Weather woes for the Rowes, but more expert advice welcomed

After all the hype of the first Manx Saturday, it quickly became a non-event after riders were told at briefing that the weather would be turning from bad to worse this afternoon. The bike itself was still scrutineered with only minor changes to do, although unlike in Australia, the bike will need to be re-scrutineered each time Royce enters the track and his wristband scanned. With today cancelled, Royce will now need to wait until Monday for his first ride – a controlled newcomer lap, then open race-pace for a period of time yet to be decided. With weather looking unpredictable this week, the team has been warned for all kinds of schedule changes.

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Although he couldn’t build up on race-pace experience, Royce had the chance to catch up with fellow Croweater Dave ‘DJ’ Johnson who will be competing in the Classic TT that runs in conjunction with the Manx GP. Royce had this to say:

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“With riding cancelled, I came across a friendly local face in the form of TT rider Dave Johnson. DJ kindly took me for a lap around the course in his borrowed BMW X5. Apart from trying to find out the cars top speed, he gave me his handy hints on how to handle the 650 around the mountain course. How to set myself up approaching the bottom of Bray Hill, which at a 30 degrees descant and sweeping right hand corner at speeds of around 260km/h an hour shall prove to be ball breaking fun. The deep, random bumps around the course also need to be taken into consideration when deciding which line to take around the corner as the fastest may not be your traditional line. With some instances the fastest line requires you to ride through the bumps and having to ride the bike squatting on the footpegs like a moto-crosser. I learnt a lot but I still have lots to learn.”

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Follow the Milky way

With both bikes ready to go, Royce has experienced his first lap of the Island on two wheels. Unfortunately, the weather has been unkind, leaving a thick blanket of fog over the mountain sections making visibility poor.

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The skies are looking like clearing up soon, but in the meantime Royce has been watching on-board footage from previous years’ races. He has also been lucky enough to score a driving lap with local TT legend Milky Quayle. Milky does a lot of the media for the Manx GP and TT, plus commentary on the instructional track DVDs. The knowledge will be invaluable for first-timer Royce.

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Here’s Royce’s first impression of the Island:

“Simply put, it was unbelievable. After watching all the videos and waiting my whole life to some day get to the track, then to see it in the flesh was a dream come true. To then have the kind hearted yet crazy Manxman Milky Quayle to generously take me on a lap around the course was so insightful. There’s loads to take in but I’m slowly getting there. Can’t wait to take the Ducati out and give it some juice.”

The adventure begins!

After a total of 22 hours in the air and longer than we want to think about in airports, the Rowe Racing Team has landed safely in the Isle of Man.

A hectic day ensued after landing, with cars, motorcycles and trucks needing to be organised for the following three weeks. First impressions have been fantastic, but rain is forecast for the next few days.

Not letting that dampen the parade, Royce will begin attempting to learn the track with the help of a few other riders over the next couple days.

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With scrutineering set for Saturday, team mechanic Brian has a busy few days ahead checking the Ducati over thoroughly. To do so, the team has commandeered the communal laundry at our cottage accommodation, transforming the washing area into a makeshift workshop – with great results!

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Royce also has been cutting laps with father Les, a former TT racer, in our hire car to aid in the visualisation of road sections. Being such a lengthy track, the 37.75 mile mountain course will be almost impossible to memorise, so the more time on the road the better.

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We will have Royce give an update on his first impressions of the track and his plans for the coming week tomorrow, so check back here soon!

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