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.
PIC: Royce combating the winds and tight fences
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.
PIC: The crew finally getting a chance to refuel their own engines
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.
PIC: Royce slowly picking his way through the order of bikes ahead of him
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.
PIC: The team in prime position for awards night
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.
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
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.
PIC: The pack-up team in action
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.
PIC: It was a long day, but all very worth it
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.
PIC: The top six finishers have their bikes impounded while the top three have the engine inspected
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!