Rider Injury Update

During the early stages of the second lap in the Junior Manx GP race on Thursday morning, Royce was involved in an accident at Union Mills, a fast section of the Mountain Course.

 

Royce said he entered the left-hander into Union Mills a bit too quick. The front developed a wobble and he was forced wide onto the footpath, couldn’t bring it back and hit the telegraph pole. The pole snapped in half, bringing down live wires and scattering debris, which resulted in a red flag to the race. The bike was literally destroyed on impact, with nothing salvageable. All the witnesses believe Royce is the luckiest guy around to survive what they saw.

 

Parents Debbie and Les Rowe, along with Royce’s partner Beth, went straight to the hospital to find Royce in a fair bit of pain, but conscious and talking. He has a big break to the right fibia, a complex break of the left tibia and complex break of the right wrist. All up, it’s 24 fractures within the legs and wrist. The doctors found no head, spine or internal injuries, which is extremely lucky.

 

They couldn’t do anything at Nobles Hospital on the Island so he was air-lifted almost straight away to Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool. He’ll undergo surgery over there and they estimate that he’ll be in hospital there for a few months. Despite being in pain he was still in good spirits, and strongly wanted to tell everyone who has supported us ‘thanks’ and also said to say ‘sorry’.

 

The team went down to Union Mills to collect the bike after Royce had been flown out. When the spectators, ambo’s and marshalls discovered who they were, everyone was amazingly supportive, offering to do anything they could to help.

 

It was evident that Royce had generated a lot of admiration and respect from all who have seen him this last couple of weeks and all were of the opinion that he was a genuine champion of the Isle of Man circuit.

 

The team would like to thank everyone for their support at home in Oz and here in the Isle of Man. Thanks to the paramedics of the Phil Hogg Motorsport Rescue Service (an ambulance service for the TT and Manx GP in honour of Phil Hogg who passed away in the 1989 TT) and the staff at Nobles Hospital.

 

When more information comes to hand, we will keep you updated.

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Ready and Waiting

After a dreary Monday spent twiddling our thumbs to hear the inevitable cancellation of practice, the team were excited to see Tuesday had provided good weather – overcast all day but no rain.

 

The Lightweight/Junior/Senior practice had been reduced from two laps to one after Monday’s schedule was moved to Tuesday. The Newcomer’s race was also shortened, so our lap was scheduled for 7.40 pm.

 

This would at least allow the team to test the changes they had made to fuelling and suspension. More than one lap to gauge the changes was really necessary, but the team decided they could work around it.

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PIC: Royce taking in some advice from the legendary ‘Milky’ Quayle

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Unfortunately, there was an incident in the Newcomers race which halted procedures. As the light started to disappear, the team were told practice would not go ahead due to the long delays. Because of this, the team have had to make some educated guesses and Royce won’t see how the bike handles until the Junior race tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

 

One thing the team could do was test the pit lane limiter, which was conducted on the road in front of Ballacain Cottages where we’re staying. Marshall Les was stationed at one end of the road and Marshall Pete at the other, making it reasonably safe and able to stop cars when Royce was doing the runs. The team also practiced pit stops, an area they excelled in last year thanks to some innovative fuel cap engineering.

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PIC: Royce testing the pit limiter on country roads – competitors are actually allowed to ride their race machines an hour before and after race time… fantastic!

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The team is hoping for good weather and a reasonably well-handling bike. The Manx GP always provides a bit of a rollercoaster ride for competitors, so fingers crossed it’s our day to go up tomorrow.

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PIC: Rowe Racing practicing the all important pit stop

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For those wanting to catch all the action, details on how to watch live timing are on Sunday’s blog post. Wednesday sees Royce compete in the Junior Manx Grand Prix Race at 10.15am IOM time, then the Lightweight Manx Grand Prix Race at 1.15pm IOM time. Of course, these times are subject to (lots of) change.

Rain, Rain, Go AWAY!

After a relaxing Sunday taking in the ambience and rolling green hills that cover Ellan Vannin, the team were chomping at the bit to sort the Triumph’s issues at Monday night practice. Unfortunately, there’s a reason those hills are so green – hourly delays dragged on through the afternoon, until finally race control made the decision to call off practice due to relentless rain.

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PIC: The team checking out a high-speed option for next year’s race

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The team had two laps of practice scheduled, which were really needed to try and resolve handling issues.

It didn’t look like practice would happen on Tuesday, as the roads usually remain open for locals before the full closure on Wednesday race day. If that was the case, the team would have to revert to the last settings used on the Triumph as at least Royce knows how the Triumph handled then.

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PIC: With some free time up his sleeves, Royce visited the fairies for luck

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Fortunately, organisers have rescheduled the whole of Monday to Tuesday. So, all the classic races will go ahead and we will have practice at 7.40pm IOM time. While this is good news, due to time constraints the practice will incorporate all classes, meaning heavy traffic and the lost opportunity to further practice on the Ducati considering the Triumph takes priority.

As well as this, only one lap has been allocated. This is far from ideal as the bike still had some issues at high speeds. But, we’ve learnt to roll with the punches over here!

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PIC: The team when they first arrived… all sun and smiles

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After practice, the team will start preparing both bikes for Wednesday’s racing. It’s going to be a long day for Royce, having both the Lightweight and Junior race in the one day.

Just to add to the commotion, the team ran out of the oil we use and couldn’t source any on the Isle of Man, so our friend Ali scoured the mainland. She travelled from John O’ Groats to Lands End and managed to find some for us, then caught the midnight ferry from Liverpool to get it to us first thing this morning. This isn’t the first time Ali has come to the rescue. For those playing along at home, Ali was the hero last year that sourced a Ducati frame from England and brought it over on the ferry after Royce bent the previous one in a high-speed accident. Once again, thanks for saving our behinds, Ali!

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PIC: We rewarded Ali for her efforts with a lap around the backyard on the Duke… what could go wrong?!

 

Weekend Wrap and How To Catch This Week’s Racing

Saturday was always going to be hectic as it’s the big race day for the Classic TT, which runs in conjunction with the Manx GP. The Island had scored pleasant weather conditions and while the classic racing commenced, we prepared for the Manx Grand Prix qualifying sessions scheduled to take place in between races.

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PIC: Two great minds: Royce Rowe and the infamous George Shuttleworth, Speed Demon

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We were on track with the Triumph at about midday, which finally provided a semi-normal listening hour for fans back home. The Ducati went out at about 7pm, so it made for a long day.

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PIC: Royce starting to feel at home on the Trumpy (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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We’re getting closer to having the Triumph’s handling sorted but Royce is experiencing some problems at high speed. The team have a couple of solutions in mind but have to wait for final practice on Monday to try them out.

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PIC: Royce passing through Gooseneck (Credit: Steve McDonald Photography)

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At home on short tracks, it’s easy to send Royce out to do a couple of laps, come back in, make a few adjustments and then send him back out again, therefore solving these problems quickly. At the Isle Man, we have to get the feedback and then wait until the next day to test the changes.

The improvements with the Triumph have shown up in lap times, however, with Royce posting a 119.69mph lap, lifting him back to third in the Junior and fourth in the Senior. This means Royce is knocking on the door of the exclusive ‘Tommy Club’. Entry is awarded only to the first 36 Manx GP competitors who lap in the 120mph bracket, created in honour of Tommy Clucas – the first rider to break that barrier, who sadly passed away at the age of 36.

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PIC: Rowe Racing support crew watching from The Crosby pub

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The lap times of the top ten in the Junior/Senior are very close, Royce being half a second behind Jamie Williams and half a second in front of Barry Lee Evans, over the 37 and 3/4 miles.

Royce managed a 112mph lap on the Ducati, putting him third in the Lightweight class. After a long day, Royce said, “A step forward in the right direction for the Triumph was made today. The steering felt more comfortable, but going faster in straight-line speed has now presented more problems that need to be sorted next session. The Ducati is on song and I’m just working on corner speed. The straights all feel a little bit slow after getting off the bigger bike, but all is coming along nicely.”

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PIC: The Ducati is performing well, as always (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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Cam Donald was kind enough to approach Royce during the day to see how he was going, and as Royce described the problems we were experiencing, Cam offered some great advice from someone who knows the Mountain Circuit so well.

A highlight of the classic programme was Michael Dunlop doing a lap on a replica 500 Gilera 4 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Bob McIntyre’s first 100 mph lap of the circuit in 1957. There were plenty of parade laps throughout the day, including one involving Ben Birchall, of Birchall Brothers Racing, who took his dad out on the TT winning sidecar for his 70th birthday. He had never ridden a sidecar before, so Ben surprised him by saying he’ll be swinging around the Isle of Man!

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PIC: Team member Pete ‘Wylesy’ Wyles and Royce hounding TT legend Ben Birchall for a ride on the outfit in next year’s TT

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Tomorrow the team will make further changes to the Triumph to try out on Monday and prep the Ducati for its race on Wednesday, then a Sunday roast for lunch at the famous Creg Ny Baa pub.

 

HOW TO: WATCH LIVE TIMING

The best way to keep up with all the action from the Manx GP is by following live timing online. This website shows the riders passing through seven sections of the course, clocking their average speed and position in the race. There is also a button that will launch a media player for Manx Radio, which feeds live commentary for the event.

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When no racing is happening, the page will be blank. You just need to provide an email address and name, then the page will automatically load.

The page is ttlive.iomtt.com/ or just Google ‘Manx GP live timing’ and click the ‘TT Live Sign-up’ page.

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If you’re just interested in listening to the events, or enjoy songs of the swingin’ ’60s, just Google ‘Manx Radio’ and click on the ‘Manx Radio TT’ link. This provides a schedule of events and a further link to ‘Listen Live’.

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Nothing can Dampen our Determination

Getting further into the festival, the Rowe Racing Team has begun to see more fans around the paddock. It’s great to hear an Aussie accent abroad, so we thank everyone who has shown support, plus those keeping tabs via this blog!

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PIC: Royce needs an extra push in the mornings to get out of bed, luckily Beth has arrived to keep him in line!

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The forecast wasn’t looking good on Friday, but with Manx Radio playing in the workshop, on-air presenters informed all competitors practice would be going ahead. We were lucky for most of the practice session until visibility on the Mountain deteriorated.

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PIC: Once again, the Ballacain laundry has been transformed into a makeshift workshop for the Manx GP

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First out was the Triumph. The team had made a number of suspension changes and are still moving forward with finding the ideal settings. There’s definitely more work to do.

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PIC: Royce had his work cut out for him on the Trumpy (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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Our biggest problem was changing the steering damper. The original was causing concern so we put another damper on, which failed shortly into the first lap. Royce persisted and still stayed out for two laps but the bike was difficult to control as the front wheel was flapping from lock to lock. Despite the handling issues, Royce posted a 117.5mph lap which slotted him at seventh fastest for the Junior and ninth for the Senior.

We have changed the damper and made further suspension changes, so tomorrow will show if we’re better off. There could be other teams going through similar issues who are yet to show their full potential on the time sheets, which all adds to the excitement and drama of race day on the Isle of Man.

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PIC: Mountain visibility can change from clear as day to pea soup within a lap

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As visibility worsened the session was shortened, meaning Royce was still out on the Triumph when the session for the Ducati had started. When he came in, Royce gave a quick debrief on the issues to the team mechanics before then jumping straight on the Ducati, setting out 15 minutes late.

Royce only got to Union Mills when the session was red flagged due to an incident on the Mountain. This means all riders must stop wherever they are on the course.

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PIC: Close competition through Sulby Bridge (Credit: Steve McDonald Photography)

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Royce was amongst five or six riders who were ushered off the track at Union Mills. One rider seemed to know where he was and where to go, so Royce followed the group which wound its way through the back roads to Douglas, then along the Promenade and back to the pits, weaving through peak hour traffic and at one stage riding behind a police van.

There’s not too many places in the world you can ride a fully-blown race bike through the main street without turning heads. The team plan to bring this revelation back home and have Royce wheelie the Duke through Rundle Mall on his way to Mallala next month.

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PIC: The Trumpy became harder and harder to handle throughout the session (Credit: Nick Wheeler)

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After an eventful night, Royce said, “After the change in steering dampers, which we thought was going to be a step in the right direction, I was left wrestling the ‘bars for a lap – which was hard work!

“I only got about a minute on the Duke before the red flag came out and the session was abandoned. The spot we were halted was on a backstreet at Union Mills. I saw a couple riders head down the side street, assuming marshalls had ushered them that way. This turned into a half hour trip back to the pits via the docks and Douglas Promenade.

“At a set of traffic lights I pulled up next to a Classic racer I had been following and said, ‘I hope you know where you’re going, because I’ve got no idea!’

He replied in a thick Swedish accent to follow him and we made it back just fine. It all made for some great Go-Pro footage riding through the town – you wouldn’t experience anything like it anywhere else in the world!”

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PIC: The team when first arriving on the Isle, which seems long ago now! (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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We have another night of working late to try and improve matters and are out earlier tomorrow as Saturday practice for the Triumph is around midday (9pm EST), followed by the classic races and parade runs throughout the afternoon. The Ducati is out at about 6pm, which will hopefully (fingers crossed) give us the chance to string together a clean lap.

 

Practice makes Perfect

After a few misty days in a row, it finally looked like the team would be able to get out for some clear practice runs.

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PIC: The (hazy) view from our accommodation at Ballacain Cottages

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Royce went out first on the Triumph, planning to make a mark on the Junior/Senior class. He only managed one lap and had to come in to make further adjustments, which were another improvement, but didn’t help lap times as it meant two standing starts.

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PIC: Royce launches the Triumph over Ballaugh Bridge (Credit: Steve McDonald Photography)

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The team have a number of other changes to make yet – we’re still experimenting and learning at the moment – but hopefully we are moving in the right direction. There will be more changes on suspension settings as well as gearing tomorrow. Although the times could be better, this week is purely for getting the bike to a stage that Royce is comfortable he can give the Junior/Senior races his absolute best and be confident in the machine underneath him.

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PIC: More adjustments for the Triumph overnight (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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Of the two standing starts, his best time clocked on the Triumph was a 116mph lap. This time placed Royce in tenth position for both Senior and Junior classes, so the team look forward to him getting a flying lap in tonight’s practice to really gauge where he sits.

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PIC: The Ducati was flying through Ballaugh Village last night (Credit: Steve McDonald Photography)

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Next, it was time for the Ducati. On the second lap, Royce was dicing with Victor Lopez Santos from Spain and Englishman Darren Cooper, both top riders. Positions were constantly changing between the three of them, until they reached the Mountain and found that the weather had closed in and fog covered that whole section. Yellow flags were displayed at every marshall station, meaning riders had to slow and could not pass. That pretty well signaled the end of the session as riders had to proceed under yellow flags. Unfortunately, we still haven’t had a flying lap on the Ducati. The best time clocked was 110.7mph, placing him at sixth. Victor Lopez Santos sits at the top of the table with a 111.9mph lap, showing just how close this race could be.

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PIC: Royce chasing down the competition in the Lightweight class (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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Tomorrow’s weather looks like it could go either way, so the team will have the vans packed and bikes tied down in anticipation. Friday evening practice signals the end of the normal practice week, with another set of laps to take place on Saturday lunchtime.

Manannan’s Cloak Slows Mountain Progress

Waking to a much nicer day, the team had time to fettle with the two race bikes before heading down to the start line. Although setting off to a sunny horizon, by the time riders met the mountain a layer of fog they call ‘Manannan’s Cloak’ had covered the area.

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PIC: Brian ‘Man with a Van’ Rosser and co unpack the goodies

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Royce’s second session was on the Ducati and by half way through the second lap, more mist had rolled onto the mountain and visibility was reduced dramatically. Royce managed a 110.8mph lap on the Ducati, being sixth in the standings. First fastest lapped at 112.1mph and eighth at 110.3 mph, so it is a very competitive class, which should make for some exciting racing come next week.

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PIC: Royce tracking through Gooseneck (Credit: Nick Wheeler)

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The team are still having handling problems with the Triumph but we are heading in the right direction as the changes made last night have been an improvement.

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PIC: There’s not much time to check out the scenery… (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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All competitors are improving as practice comes to a close this week. The field will get one final practice next Monday evening before racing begins on Wednesday.

The lap time on the Triumph increased to 116.5mph, being sixth in the Junior and fifth in the Senior qualifying positions. The fastest qualifier in both classes recorded a lap time of 117.5 mph, so these classes are closely contested as well.

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PIC: Leaning the Green Machine over full-tilt around the course took its toll on Royce’s body (Credit: Nick Wheeler)

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Once clambering off the bike with sore hands and bottom, Royce exhaustedly said, “With trying to hang on to the Triumph over bumps and jumps in the previous two sessions becoming an issue, we have adjusted the seat and put padding down – allowing me to pilot the bike easier. Good conditions on the road today meant I had the confidence to test different lines through corners. Alas, the conditions weren’t great the whole way around. The thick fog over the mountain hindered my lap times a little and I therefore didn’t get the chance to try new lines on that section, which is where I need to find time the most. The Duke is behaving itself really well and I can’t wait to get back out there! No ice bath tonight, one was enough!”

Team 15

PIC: A green and gold blur (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

Tuesday Practice Goes Ahead

After much anticipation, the news was sent out via Manx Radio that Tuesday evening practice would indeed go ahead. The fog was thick all day and flights in and out of the Isle of Man were cancelled, so the team had their doubts when packing the van.

It was a close thing, with the first session out on the start line but being held until they had confirmation from the helicopter that it could operate. It’s not so much the rain or mist on the Island, but whether the rescue helicopter can take off from the mainland and reach the Island to be ready for any incident up on the Mountain.

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PIC: Douglas Promenade was still blanketed in fog at about midday

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The fog lifted just in time so that the session was sent off two minutes after schedule, but all teams were left holding their breath as that all important siren was only sounded at the last minute.

The team feel they are getting closer to having the Triumph handle but still have a way to go. We managed two laps on both bikes, Royce coming in and jumping off the Triumph and straight onto the Ducati. Being such a monster of a bike to manhandle around the track, it obviously took its toll on Royce’s body.

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PIC: Royce passing onlookers at The Raven pub on-board the Triumph 675 (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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After arriving back to Rowe Racing HQ, he had this to say, “With a couple of changes made to the Triumph, riding the beast around wasn’t as rough and harsh and was a bit easier of the bumps in the fast sections. I had a slight problem with hand grips and gloves, so arm-pump set in for the last half of the second lap which affected times.

“The Ducati felt really nice and I can’t wait to get back out there and start stringing my corners together to clock a better lap. An ice bath this evening wasn’t the most fun I’ve had but all for the cause!”

Royce posted a 115mph lap on the Triumph, which has him 2nd in qualifying in the Junior and 3rd in the Senior so far.

Team 13

PIC: Royce givin’ it the berries! (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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He managed a 108mph lap on the Ducati which sees him 5th in the standings.

There were a number of slippery sections on the course so conditions were not ideal, but the weather should improve tomorrow before deteriorating again later in the week.

Team 12

PIC: Getting some air on the Super Twins machine (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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Given the Classic TT is run in conjunction with the Manx GP, you tend to bump into a few legends of the sport who are there enjoying a historic ride. One such legend, and probably the world’s fastest road racer currently, is Michael Dunlop. He is in town competing in the Classic and like every race he tackles, taking it rather seriously. It was a buzz for Royce to set off on the Triumph at the start alongside him.

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PIC: Everyone gets put to work at dinner time inside Rowe Racing HQ

Monday Blues

Practice was called off Monday evening with steady rain all afternoon. It was a bit of a downer as the bikes had been prepared and loaded in the vans but all we could do was walk around the pits and catch up with people. It’s always a little bit frustrating dealing with intermittent weather on the Island, but having experienced the thick fog on the mountain in the past, it just has to be done for safety’s sake.

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PIC: With not much else to do, the team retreated to the O’Kells Tent

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While walking the pits, Royce caught up with fellow Aussie and TT legend Cam Donald. Cam is competing in the Classic TT, which is run in conjunction with the Manx GP. They both had a good chat and Royce was eager to take on-board any tips from the highly experienced racer.

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PIC: Cam Donald will pilot an original 1950 works Norton, the only one in the world, in the Classic TT

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In the meantime, we hope the weather improves today (Tuesday) so we can continue work on the Triumph.

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PIC: Crew member, Tim ‘The Toolman’ Donnon, prepares the Triumph

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Just having the one session on Saturday so far, Royce had this to say about his return to the Isle of Man, “Getting back on the track after such a long period away from road racing was a bit daunting – it felt great to blow out the cobwebs! We have a few things on the Triumph to work on as we were flying blind when setting up the bike for local track use, let alone the Isle of Man course. I have high hopes for the Trumpy and also the Duke.”

We caught up with a mate of ours in the pits, ‘Stockers’, (Colin Stockdale from Whitby Yorkshire, a Classic 500 Honda rider), who has looked out for us over the last few years. He stocked up the pit fridge with some supplies from South Australia to make us feel at home. We think this idea of a ‘pit fridge’ should definitely be adopted for meetings back home.

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PIC: We just need Coopers to sponsor our ‘Green Machine’ and the fridge will be forever full!

Weekend Wrap

As mentioned in the last post, all teams signed in before first practice Saturday. It’s all done by officials on computers, checking FIM International Licence, Start Permission and other paperwork. It’s a very well organised and streamlined process.

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PIC: Royce signing on for the Manx GP

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Before the first practice, we were lucky enough to have a visit from photographer Tracey Killey. She runs a Facebook site called Tracey’s Pictures and is out on track every session getting fantastic snaps of all the riders. She’s a great friend of the team and if you’re on The Facebook, have a look at her spectacular work. The shots she got of Royce and the two race bikes at our Ballacain Cottage accommodation came out great!

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PIC: Royce ready for the 2017 Manx GP (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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After the long wait all year, it was finally time to hit the start line on Saturday evening for first practice. There unfortunately was an hour and a quarter delay as cars had been left on the road after road closure and they had to get recovery vehicles to remove them when the owners couldn’t be found. One was at the Bungalow and the recovery vehicle got stuck, so a recovery vehicle had to be sent to recover the recovery vehicle.

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PIC: Royce about to set off for the first time this year

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This shortened practice so we only got one lap on the Triumph and two on the Ducati.

 

Practice nearly didn’t start at all as they were short 200 marshalls. A call went out over Manx Radio for help and enough people volunteered including the two Debs from Rowe Racing who were stationed at Ballagarey!

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PIC: The two Debs volunteered to marshall during Saturday’s practice

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The first lap on the Triumph highlighted the lost testing time we had in Australia. The bike was quick – 170mph on our telemetry. The problem is in the handling as Royce is struggling to control it at high speed over the bumpy circuit.

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PIC: Royce on board the Triumph during Junior/Senior practice (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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Even so, on first lap out from a standing start he recorded a 112mph lap. We’ll be working hard to try to improve the handling.

 

The Ducati ran well but traffic was a factor in keeping the times down, with a best lap of 108mph.

Team 7

PIC: Royce making his way through the field in Super Twins practice (Credit: Tracey’s Pictures)

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Sunday was a rest day, with the team heading out for a traditional English roast dinner (lunch). The hope is to be back on track today (Monday) for evening practice but the weather forecast is not favourable. All classes have practice scheduled for each night this week, giving us an opportunity to fine tune both bikes for next week’s races.

 

With Deb Lock now on the Island, snapper Tracey Killey on track and the team’s own roving reporter/tech guru Debbie Rowe on the ground, we’ll have plenty of great pictures to share in the coming weeks.