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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.