Rowe Racing rivals the best

The Les Rowe & Associates/BJR Racing Products Ducati has exceeded all expectations at this year’s Manx GP, managing to run with some of the best Supertwin machines in the Northern Hemisphere. Piloted by Royce Rowe, a four-time South Australian Pro Thunder Champion, the 650 Ducati has been put to the ultimate test at the 37 and three-quarter mile course. There are a number of sections that require the motorcycle to be pinned in top-gear for minutes at a time, some of which trek up steep inclines. It’s torture for man and machine, but as we’ve found over the past fortnight, the winners around this course are always the riders with a passion and respect for the track.

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Pic: Royce replicating the famous front of Creg-ny-Baa photo

Results overall absolutely astounded the team, rider and locals. Arriving in the pits for the first practice with a bright red Ducati certainly turned a few heads – most of which were shaking or tutting to think we could break the Kawasaki moulded class on a Ducati Monster. These attitudes changed quickly over the first week, with Royce upping his lap time every single day he crossed the white line. Although missing a couple of sessions due to some of the worst patches of weather the orgainsers had ever experienced, Royce’s understanding was helped by a number of current and ex-TT riders taking time out to share their wisdom.

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Pic: The weather was not always kind, forcing a number of cancelled practice sessions

Although arriving under the radar, it didn’t take long for the organisers, officials and media to notice Royce’s exploits on the unlikely red steed. Before long, the officials had taken a liking to the red-shirted Aussie army. This resulted in us winning the first ever “Best Prepared Bike” trophy, chosen by the scrutineers from a pool of over 400 teams. The team also had interest through the “Sponsor a Newcomer” Facebook page, with Royce receiving financial help from three generous donators (Glen Dickenson, Keith Edwards and Catherine Long) and the Mike Hailwood Foundation. Royce also scored two interviews, one an hour long, with Manx Radio, the national radio station, which many locals noticed and commented positively upon whenever and wherever a member of our team was encountered around the track’s viewing points.

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Pic: We made sure to say hello and dip a penny, so the fairy’s did their job keeping Royce safe

With all this hype surrounding the team, Royce didn’t let it go to his head. Keeping a clear frame of mind and purely concentrating on the task at hand, he produced some of the best performances of the festival. Even with having the Newcomer race shortened to three laps, which worked against us, Royce took fourth place – only missing a podium by half the time it takes to pit, which one of the top three riders with a larger tank managed to avoid. Then three days later in the Supertwin class, Royce scored a top 10 finish, only missing out on ninth place by 0.02 seconds (leaving the team to ponder whether they might replace the twist-top petrol cap with a push-button next year…). In presentations for both classes, Royce scored a replica trophy for finishing within 110% of the winners’ lap time.

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Pic: Royce gained some priceless knowledge from TT legend Milky Quayle

A hugely eye-opening experience for a young rider, Royce had this to say:
“After we all got very merry at the presentation night, we then soaked up the Isle of Man night life before partying on back at Rowe Racing HQ. The party still hasn’t stopped to be honest and I don’t think it will ease up for a while considering I’m writing this with a beer in one hand and a scotch in the other, still reminiscing about the races just gone by. Looking back at my past few weeks on this heavenly island, I couldn’t have achieved what I did without the help of so many people. My sponsors back home that helped me get over here, especially Auldana Foundations with Alessandro’s ongoing generosity. Our newest sponsor Cresta Plastics. The Bears Motorcycle Club. KP signs for helping to make the bike look schmick,  Kessner Suzuki and GC Motorcycles.
I’d also like to thank everyone that came over to cheer me on! That being my Uncle Glen, Karen and Derek, Peter and Kerry, Judy and Dave, Leonard for being the highly talented public relations man to keep the blog going and Jaclyn. Thanks to my girlfriend Beth for getting me up in the morning and cooking my breakfast. Thankfully they don’t do morning practices for the racing anymore as I probably would have struggled getting out of bed! Thanks to Stacey and Debbie for their help.Sincere thanks to Mum for braving the scary aeroplanes to come over but also for having to watch me scrape my shoulder along a brick wall going round a sweeping right corner at ‘Waterworks’ and waiting patiently for me to return to the paddock each session. She even coincided her birthday with my final race, gifting the best present I could by returning safely for a big hug. Massive thanks to Dad for doing so much organisation before and while we were here, also for mentoring me as a previous TT rider. Locky for meticulously helping with the bike every day and doing a solid job during the pit stop. Phil for helping behind the scenes, the extra hands helped relieve some pressure from the team. Brian for saying yes over a year ago to build me the very successful Ducati, setting up the bike from the other side of the world and pretty much hitting the nail on the head after not having to basically change a thing regarding set up, but also caring for the poor bike after we really put it to its limits. His BJR Racing Products Ducatis are just awesome. Milky Quayle for taking me on a lap and Dave Johnson for his insights around the course and the laps he spent with me. Also to everyone back home that’s been sending me constant support on the Facebook site and blog page, it all means a lot that I can share my adventure with you all. It’s certainly a trip and experience I’m never going to forget. Walking the bike out of the pits after my last race, Brian has already started to talk about doing next year’s venture. I’ll be more than happy to come back, I’ll just have to start saving my pennies up again.”

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Pic: The mechanical minds behind the dominating Duke

The team itself would like to thank every single person who has helped us along the way. Whether it was advice from previously being here, feeding the team or just visiting this very blog to keep an eye on our exploits! The blog itself has seen some heavy traffic – just within the racing fortnight, we had over 3000 visitors to the site. The Facebook page has also been busy, with hundreds of people befriending the team and over 8000 Facebook users in general were exposed to the page. In particular, the team would love to thank:
Auldana Foundations, Cresta Plastics, BEARS Motorcycle Racing Club, KP Signs, Kessner Motorcycles and GC Motorycles.

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Pic: With the racing done, it was time for the old man to have fun – you couldn’t pull a bigger smile if you tried!

Where do we go from here? Well, the bike is now packed up and waiting at the Douglas dockyards to be shipped back to Australia by Bikes Abroad, who have been fantastic. The big question; Do we come back for another crack? The answer, YES! The team has committed to coming back for a real hot go next year, adding a Suzuki 600 to also contest the Junior and hopefully Senior races. This year, going into the race blind in terms of knowing how the meeting operated and what was required from rider and machine, we now have a wealth of knowledge, along with friends willing to store bits and bobs in the meantime – there’s only so many jerry cans and fire-protectant suits we can fit into our carry-on! Brian has several more horsepowers up his sleeve for the Duke which we hope to unleash next year.
Obviously, it is a massive venture taking two bikes to the other side of the world, racing against blokes who can pop home for dinner in minutes. With so much attention and exposure for rider and team, we hope to find some more generous people who would like to join our growing lineup and invite those people to contact us at les@lesrowe.com.au.

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The Duc’s nuts!

Our time at the Isle of Man has come to an end in exciting fashion. After having the Supertwin race moved to Friday, the Rowe Racing Team had a whole extra day to prepare the machine for a grueling four lap race. With an overall time of one hour, 25 minutes and 44 seconds, Royce rode the equivalent of just over 105 laps of Mallala, our home circuit. Royce secured tenth position out of 55 starters (only 37 finished), but most importantly completed the race safely. It was easily the best birthday present his mum Debbie could have received seeing him pull around the final corner for the last time!

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Pic: Royce turning the last corner for the last time

Taking off from number 55, Royce had a fair bit of slower traffic to make his way past, which can be a difficult task on these small and dangerous roads. From the standing start, he first clocked a 105 mph lap, reaching his previously set goal instantly. Second time around on a flying lap, he recorded a 107 mph time. Pulling through for a frantic 40-second pit stop, the teams’ fortnight of hard work had come into fruition as Royce got away without a hitch.

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Pic: On his way to posting a 108 mph lap

Unlike the Newcomers race, a pit stop is mandatory, thus making it more of a level playing field. Returning from his third lap, Royce chimed in at 102 mph, a very respectable lap considering the pit stop seconds are included. Crossing the line at pace to begin his final lap, Royce dug deep knowing it will be his last chance to shine around the mountain course for at least a year. All the training and hard work had come down to these two days of racing. Piecing the track together seamlessly, Royce crossed the line one final time with the average speed of 108.4 mph.

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Pic: A hay bail separating Royce and a phone box – only at the Isle of Man

Securing tenth place is miles beyond what we thought could be achievable before beginning this campaign against guys that live and breath road racing. To have come all this way and record such an impressive result is unbelievable and would have never been possible without the hard work of a lot of people. We’ll have a wrap up on the website in the coming days to really show our appreciation to all the people that have helped along the way.

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Pic: A beer shouted by the Secret Sponsor! Cheers, mystery man!

In regards to the day itself, Royce had this to say:
“Before we started the race I said to the team, “I’m gonna be happy if I get to the 105 mph lap and a top 10 finish.” After a 108.4 mph lap and tenth position finish I was ecstatic and so was the team. The pit stop in the four lap race was seamless, but we could have saved at least three seconds from a quick-release fuel cap. Annoyingly, this would have gained me ninth position as the rider ahead of me finished a quarter of a second faster than me. But, it’s all a massive learning curve. Brian has already begun figuring out how we’re gonna go faster next year. When asked if I want to come back next year I easily replied, “I’ve been bitten by the bug, I want to come back here every year, even til I’m parking my walking frame in the pit garage!”

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Pic: Congratulatory champagne after the race

From here, the bikes will be crated up, along with all the spares, race gear and tools, then shipped by boat back to Australia – hopefully taking around two or three months. Much of the team will be heading straight back to Oz, while a few others, including Royce, will be heading off on another adventure around Europe. It’s been an eye-opening two weeks of racing and we are stoked so many people have shown a keen interest in the venture. Now, it’s time to let our hair down before getting serious about contesting the race next year…

Rowe Racing recognised

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Pic: Royce and father Les admiring the replica trophy, “That’s goin’ straight to the pool room”

The Newcomers presentation night held by the Manx Grand Prix Club was an affair to remember. Over 200 people filled the VIP tent in Nobles Park, next to the pits, to cheer on every newcomer who had tackled the mountain course.

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Pic: The Aussie crew came out in numbers at presentation night

With drinks flowing and great laughs being had by all, we were then reminded of the grim reality that sometimes comes with this genre of racing, as we paid tribute to fallen newcomer Dennis Hoffer. A moments silence was adhered to before beginning the presentation ceremony.

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Pic: Royce accepting his fourth place replica trophy

All riders completing the race in the three categories received a finishers medal, whereas anyone finishing within 110% of the fastest lap received a replica trophy of the actual, much larger, TT trophy – the fantastic achievement Royce was able to obtain. Also, the tradition of carrying the winner down to the stage in a sleigh-type contraption was a new sight for the overseas visitors.

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Pic: The long running tradition of race winners being chaired down to the podium

Everyone was extremely impressed by the effort the racing club had gone to to put on such a great event. We could have partied on into the night with the live band and well-stocked bar, but there is still work to be done before Friday’s final Supertwins race. Tune into Manx radio at 6.45pm Friday night Adelaide time (10.15am IoM time) to hear the race live.

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Pic: Royce with fellow South Australian rider John Chiodi

Race postponed while practice times improve

The unpredictable island weather has gotten the better of us again, with today’s Supertwins race being postponed until Friday. With a vintage rally taking place tomorrow, the track has been booked and we have no other choice to wait until Friday morning. Although we’ve been told it will be subject to change, at this point in time the race will take place at 10.15am Friday morning (6.45pm Adelaide time).

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Pic: 3, 2, 1… GO!

Even with the event cancelled, Royce was still allowed out this afternoon for a two lap practice session. Surprisingly, the weather was breezy, but fine. Clocking in his first time around from a standing start, Royce posted a 104 mph lap – potentially a good omen as 104 is his Australian racing number. Continuing through on his final lap, Royce crossed the line with a 104.995 mph time, agonisingly close to his 105 mph target. This final lap time slotted Royce in as eighth fastest out of the 55 Supertwins racers.
Unlike a normal qualifying arrangement with a grid of riders in fastest order, the staggered time trial start of 10-second intervals in numbered order will unfortunately see Royce released last as he is number 55 – potentially needing him to weed through some heavy traffic. With this and the weather being out of the team’s control, everyone was thrilled with his progress. The team now has a full day to prepare the bike which will be up against some serious competition. As much as we would have liked to race and begin packing the crates up for the long trip home, any extra experience around the track is a big plus in Royce’s book.

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Pic: Royce turning through Governors Bridge

Tune in Friday to hear Royce contest the Supertwins race at 10.15am our time (6.45pm Adelaide time) with the same broadcaster  http://www.manxradio.com/on-air/vauxhall-radio-tt/ .

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Pic: Royce on the final corner on a hot lap

A fantastic result and learning curve for all

“Racing is living, everything else is just waiting”

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Pic: Passing Kate’s Cottage, Royce continued on through Creg-ny-Baa

The team awoke to a dreary island morning, a constant drizzle and strong breeze was present at race control – meaning the mountain would be far worse.
With that in mind, race control decided to postpone track closure until 1pm, with the first race taking off at 2pm. Rather than prolong the day with the original order, Royce’s race was lucky enough to be kept at 2pm, with the practice sessions swapped to after his. Royce was ready to contest the Newcomers race, previously a four lap race, but shortened to a three lap venture due to the weather delay. This altered the teams game plan as they were forced to pit for a re-fuel on either the first or second lap. Although all let off together, he was competing in his own group of Newcomers B within the combined race.

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Pic: Royce storming down to Hillbery corner – Photo: Deb ‘Cool Hand’ Lock

Honing all his circuit racing skills and meticulous preparation for the road race, Royce came out flying with a standing start lap of 102 mph, followed up by a blistering 103.5 mph. Then after the necessary pit stop adding 40 seconds of time, with fatigue setting in, he finished the race with a massive 100.3 mph lap. Obviously pushing hard to make the podium, Royce was chasing down a large gap to third, ending up fourth ahead of three far more experienced riders.
Being ecstatic about the results, Royce had this to say:

“Once the bikes were called to the starting line, we were all lined up in our numbers and being 58 I had about nine and a half minutes until I was to start. I thought that was a long time but after what seemed like 30 seconds, I had the starters’ hand on my shoulder. I got ‘the tap’ to start my descent down Bray Hill. Being a time trial, I had mostly a clear track for my whole race, which left me to concentrate on riding safe; even though you need to strive ahead and want to be number one like back at home on the circuit. Pushing too hard on this track leaves no room for errors, and with only eight laps of experience up my sleeve, I had to ride smart. We had a really good pit stop that the team executed near flawlessly. Coming over the line with the chequered flag I felt great to have finished something I had only dreamed of competing in. To achieve fourth place is just a bonus. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s race and almost feel a little saddened that it will be my last ride on this awesome race track… for now!”

Furthermore to today’s success, the team has been lucky enough to score a new sponsor deal. Using the ‘Sponsor a Newcomer’ Facebook page, Royce uploaded a profile months before setting off on the adventure. While watching the practice from Ballaugh Bridge, the team got talking to a marshal chasing up the rear of the field. He informed us that three generous donators had taken him on as a newcomer with a sponsorship donation in return for stickering their names on the red Duke, along with a prize pack put together by the Manx GP officials. The Mike Hailwood Foundation also decided to help us out, which is much appreciated. We’d also like to thank Glen Dickenson, Keith Edwards and Catherine Long for helping the Rowe Racing Team on this new venture. One of the donators is a good friend of MotoGP legend Kenny Roberts, so a potential Indianapolis start could hopefully be in the mix soon!

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Pic: The Rowe Racing support crew taking over the Creg-ny-Baa corner

In the meantime, Masterchef  of Australian cuisine, Derek Sabey has finally arrived from Oz to cook us all a BBQ to the finest standards – something we’ve all been missing with this pommy weather.
Tune in tomorrow to hear Royce contest the Supertwins race at 1.15pm our time (9.45pm Adelaide time) with the same broadcaster http://www.manxradio.com/on-air/vauxhall-radio-tt/ . Also, if you would like to read up on Royce winning the new ‘Best Presented’ bike award, the local link as is follows: http://www.manxgrandprix.org/News/2015/September/01/Best-bike

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Pic: Iron Chef Derek Sabey chooses… PORK!