Rowe Racing wrap-up

Our second attempt at the Manx GP was more eventful than anyone could have anticipated, with all team members coming away with a greater appreciation for the festival. Not only are we ecstatic about the results, the burning desire to win has only been fuelled by Royce’s encouraging performance under trying circumstances.

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PIC: Royce aboard the Suzuki GSX-R600 in the Manx GP Junior race (Credit: Nick Wheeler)

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The crew had spent days twiddling their thumbs with everything prepared for racing before Royce’s crash at The Nook. Even the rain had held us off early, so the spanner turners, Locky and Brian went from 0 to 100 real quick – essentially needing to rebuild a fractured Ducati while keeping on top of our Suzuki and second rider Paul’s Ducati.

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PIC: Pushing hard on the Les Rowe & Associates Manx 650 Ducati (Credit: RC Photos)

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It was a tough week but fortunately the idea of defeat never entered anyone’s mind, with all the team getting tunnel vision towards Wednesday’s Supertwin race. The engine was only run in during one practice before the race, so was definitely far from 100%. It’s hard to take after travelling so far for this one shot at glory, but we know numerous teams don’t last through the race mechanically, or even make it to the start line. Scoring a seventh place was a huge achievement, with the whole team content knowing we had done everything in our power to give Royce the best shot possible.

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PIC: The team was ecstatic with Royce’s sixth place finish in the Senior (Credit: Alan Teare)

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With the crash in mind, it was amazing for Royce to get straight back out on the Suzuki to begin preparation for the Junior and Senior races. An eighth and sixth place respectively was certainly not expected, shocking a number of officials and riders in the paddock. There was some serious machinery up against the little team from Oz, so we couldn’t be happier with our preparation and Royce’s determination.

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PIC: Paul van der Heiden flat out through Kirk Michael on the second Rowe Racing 650 Ducati

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Adding to the team’s excitement over the Manx GP was Rowe Racing’s own Paul van der Heiden scoring a win in the Newcomers B race. The team were on hand to help with the pit stop and Paul rode like a champion afterwards to keep with his rival until the end. This makes him the first Aussie since Cam Donald to win at the Isle of Man. The celebration was fantastic and he has certainly made a few waves in the road racing scene since.

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PIC: Paul van der Heiden on the podium for the Newcomers B race

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Since returning to Australia the response has been overwhelming. We have received some wonderful messages of support, with many coming from the Isle of Man of people wanting us to return. Our own Australian Motorcycle News Magazine was good enough to pick up the story, publishing a report on the full Classic TT and Manx GP, giving a special consideration to Royce and Paul. It can be found in this fortnight’s issue (Vol  66 No 06). Unfortunately, as we have found in the past, getting anything motor sport into mainstream Adelaide media is an uphill battle but the team will be working hard from here on to drum up support for next year’s attempt.

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PIC: The team was lucky enough to get featured in the current issue of AMCN

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From here, Royce will unfortunately miss out on riding his favourite track Mac Park, as the bikes won’t be back from shipping in time for the Master of Mac Park in October. So instead, the next race meeting we’re able to attend will be the Mallala 3 Hour endurance race in November. It is a fantastic meeting that has gone from strength to strength thanks to the promotion by the Phoenix Club. Royce has taken out the first solo rider position for several years running, which is no easy feat considering the demanding track and typical weather conditions.

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PIC: The 2016 Manx GP Rowe Racing Team

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The final round of the SA Championships is held in December. Royce currently leads the 600 Championship and is running second in the Pro Thunder class. All the meanwhile, we will have the Isle of Man in the back of our minds. The team will have to consider all options available, but hope to gather enough support to return for another shot at the Manx GP.

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Six, seven, eight…

The Rowe Racing Team has ended the Manx Grand Prix on a high, with rider Royce Rowe scoring a sixth place finish in the coveted Senior race – making it a sixth (Senior), seventh (Supertwins) and eighth (Junior) finish this year. Allowing higher capacity machines, which is a huge advantage across the open mountain, he knew he’d be up against some tough competition during Friday’s race.

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PIC: Royce combating the winds and tight fences
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Setting off with a ripper start, the front runners began clocking through Glen Helen and Ballaugh – then, much to the surprise of  the commentators and us, Royce popped up on the screens just outside the top 10. Starting from number 22 meant having to wait for a while through each sector to see his name slot in with the front runners, such is the nature of a time trial race. What really helped Royce on his way was the flawless pit stop after lap two.

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PIC: The crew finally getting a chance to refuel their own engines
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Continuing on, Royce was closing in on seventh place throughout his third lap. As we got sector times, a special speed trap had been setup at Sulby Straight to catch the riders’ top speed. We waited and waited, finally to see Royce slot in at last position! This trend continued until Royce disappeared off the top 30 list, proving just how much faster the competition was in a straight line. It’s a credit to his riding style, proving that the years of 2-stroke racing has helped with carrying corner speed.

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PIC: Royce slowly picking his way through the order of bikes ahead of him
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Coming into his final lap, Royce took seventh place. Then, as the luck of the mountain has it, one of the top five had an engine failure, forcing him to retire. Obviously devastating for him, this luck seems to go both ways. Much like how a different rider early on last week made a top three practice position because Royce was sprawled across a local’s front garden. It’s never nice being on the receiving end, but we were told on arrival by a local motorcycle dealer not to be disheartened by engine troubles, as there are top factory teams who arrive here and don’t even complete a full lap. So, due to the retirement, Royce slotted himself into a well earned sixth place for the Senior GP.

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PIC: The team in prime position for awards night
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The team was overwhelmed by the result. Coming such a long way, it was a great feeling to achieve such a result. Immediately afterwards, the blokes visited the OKell’s tent to celebrate. The atmosphere is like none other – blokes have returned from battle still in their leathers and are wanting to sit and thank their team, while conversing with other riders who finished their wrestle between man and machine in one piece. It’s the end of a festival that has asked more from a rider than you could ever expect anywhere around the world.

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PIC: Royce was entered with two other riders as part of the Mike Hailwood Foundation Team points trophy… in conjunction with the best Picasso art schmock shirt award
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Although wanting to drain the kegs dry, we knew it was going to be easier to head towards Island Express and start packing the crates. We had no intention of getting everything done in one hit, but as a credit to the team, we got it done! Working like maddogs, the three crates were drilled, filled and signed off in one afternoon – which gives us more time to catch-up on sleep tomorrow (mainly Locky anywhere he can find) and drink more beers.

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PIC: The pack-up team in action
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After fastening the final bolt, we rushed back home to get prepared for the Manx GP Presentation Night. It was a throw together dinner and a quick wash of the grease covered hands. Straight into the Isle of Man Villa Marina, we got a decent seat and enjoyed a great night of awards. Unlike many ceremonies from home, whether you come 2nd or 62nd you receive an award. The cheers and congratulations was amazing! We enjoyed meeting people from all over the world, as well as many locals. Royce took over the mic when receiving his award, which is not a normal custom, but thanked all the team – a great feeling when all of us had traveled so far compared to most competitors.

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PIC: It was a long day, but all very worth it
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Being the end of the Grand Prix, it’s a joyous time for all to celebrate. The vibe is so different here to any other race meeting. Guys don’t finish a race and discuss tactics, they congratulate each other on surviving. As the Governor declared at our dinner last week, there is a certain comradeship involved with the Mountain Course. You see an F1 podium and drivers will spray champagne onto their team and themselves, but the enjoyment shared between riders on the Isle of Man podium who have tackled the TT Course is something else. It’s not just a win, it’s survival and genuine admiration for a fellow rider.

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PIC: The top six finishers have their bikes impounded while the top three have the engine inspected
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So, now it’s time to prepare for a long flight home before we consider whether we contest the race next year. Considering all things that have happened, with Royce throwing a bike into a fence at 100km/h, it’s quite possible we could come back stronger and genuinely contest a top spot. But, it’s unrealistic to consider without the help of sponsors. We can’t thank everyone enough who has got us to this point and wish to direct everyone to our sponsors page for a look. Royce has obviously found a niche in road racing, so all we can do from here is hope he flourishes in this extreme, but exciting, environment.
We’ll have a wrap up of the past fortnight’s racing in the coming days. Cheers!

One more chance to ride

The team has recovered from last night’s celebrations at the Newcomer’s Presentation to prepare today for the final race of the Manx Grand Prix. Royce will contend the Full Factory Winnerswear Senior Manx Grand Prix race at 10.15am. Once again, his number has been changed – this time to 22. It’s a nice even number, half the amount of 44 his original number and brother Leonard’s birthday. This puts Royce closer to the front with less traffic to get mixed up in. Similar to yesterday’s race, some overnight rain looks likely so delays could be enforced. Either way, the team is prepared and ready to give the Mountain Course one last crack.

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PIC: The team carrying Paul down to receive his award in the traditional Manx GP winners sled
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We have also begun the task of packing everything back up into the crates, which is never as fun as unpacking crates. The two Ducatis have now finished their racing, so this afternoon will be spent packing all their corresponding bits and bobs into boxes and bubble wrap.

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PIC: The Supertwin machines lined and ready for the start of their race
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After the race tomorrow we can pack away the Suzuki and race day necessities. At night we have the official Manx GP Presentation night, where both Royce and Paul will receive replica trophies for their efforts in the Supertwin race. Royce will also score a trophy in the Junior class, while for the Senior we’ll just have to wait and see. Once again, we’ll be posting the results tomorrow night but please do listen via Manx Radio or watch live timing as shown in a previous blog post.

Big Day Out!

What a day!

It was always going to be a hectic day, but we feel the team really did perform and could not be prouder of what we have achieved. With racing scheduled for 10.15am, the team were up bright and early to get down to the track for technical inspection (scrutineering). Much to Royce’s disgust, who is lucky to see the AM most mornings, the organisers delayed the start by an hour to let the overnight rain have a better chance of drying. We headed down anyway, before being informed of another half hour postponement. To be fair, this was better for the riders and for us in terms of getting all three bikes through tech inspection ready for the day’s racing – if it had of been running on time, we would have needed helpers to push through the Ducati’s while the pit crew serviced Royce in the Junior race.

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PIC: Royce setting off on the Junior
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Heading out for the Junior, Royce was tentative but keen. This was his first crack at the Junior class aboard the Suzuki 600 as our entry was knocked back last year. With a field of over 80 riders, Royce set off at number 29 – a much better position than his original number of 44, giving him less traffic to contend with. He set off full of determination for his four lap venture, on a basically stock bike. His pit stop was flawless – the three lads did there job to a tee! Royce set off and was noticeably faster every lap.

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PIC: We may have to start charging for signatures to fund our next trip
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Sitting around 14th on his second lap, after the pit stop he bolstered himself to 12th. Third lap he was down to 10th, and crossing the line for the final time he secured eighth with a total race time of 1hr19m17.141s. His best lap time was a 114.2mph. Coming into the form up area, the team was ecstatic to hear the results – even Royce was shocked. To be scoring eighth position as a family team from little old Adelaide is a massive achievement and we couldn’t be happier. This also qualifies Royce for a replica trophy at the presentation night as he finished within 110% of the winning race time.

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PIC: Royce taking off from his solid pit stop
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As excited as we were, party mode was quickly subdued as we needed to move our attention to the upcoming Supertwin race. Royce sat down to a sandwich and sports drink, but the pain from the crash last week was starting to show – let alone the demanding physical strength needed to steer a Supersport bike around a huge course for well over an hour. With both Royce and teammate Paul in the same race, the team kept their cool remarkably well to get them both out in time.

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PIC: The A-Team

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Setting off well, Royce knew that the first half of his lap at least needed to be tentative as the new engine wasn’t quite run in properly and his shock had just been repaired, so the bikes stiffness could be slightly different than expected – not hard to gauge when hitting the bottom of Bray Hill at 232km/h. He continued on, pittnig for a great stop again with the organised lads, before battling with a Spanish rider for the rest of the race. Holding a 1.5 second lead for the first three laps, Royce pulled away to take 7th place by over four seconds.

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PIC: The team ran a very organised pit stop
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Royce was stoked with his result. He is used to having a fully prepped circuit bike, so was a bit unsure early on, but it took the team to explain to him how amazing the result was for him to appreciate the finish. Yes, the bike wasn’t 100% like it would be at a local race meet and Royce wasn’t 100% physically either. But, he rode the wheels off it and scored an amazing result. There were teams who finished ahead of us last year who didn’t even make the top ten, or broke down all together, such is the harsh reality of the Isle of Man circuit.

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PIC: The ultimate pit crew in action
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The fact Royce made it through the race alive and the bike survived is out of this world There are not too many air-cooled machines that come away from the Isle of Man in one piece. Ducati builder and owner Brian Rosser has worked his magic all this week to get Royce back on track after his horror crash. Everything that could have gone wrong has and the only reason we competed this week was becauase of the hard work and long hours committed by Brian and Locky.

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PIC: Royce and Les on their way to a big day ahead

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The team went along to the Newcomers gathering to congratulate Paul in winning the Newcomers B race. We all enjoyed carrying him down the pathway on board the traditional Manx GP wheelbarrow (Photos to follow). The event was great, especially when Royce went up for a dance with the Race Secretary. We all drank our team’s share of Guinness and as we left the local bartenders took a sigh of relief, knowing we wouldn’t be back until Friday. The Senior takes off Friday morning, so we will have an update for the fans then – potentially uploaded from the OKell’s beer tent.