Royce gets the jump on Easter racing rivals

The Rowe Racing Team had a busy couple of weeks before Easter, rebuilding both bikes, with Locky and Howard Sabey helping Brian through some late nights.

 

The Ducati was the last to be completed, with Brian tightening the last bolt mid-afternoon on Thursday. Within a few hours, the team was loaded up and driving through the night to Mount Gambier, with a couple of close calls as kangaroos jumped out onto the road to wish us well on our travels.

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PIC: The new naked showing off its bits! (Credit: LSM Photography)

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There had been no time to test the bikes, so it was a relief to find both running perfectly on Easter Friday’s open practice session.

 

Royce had entered four classes – Supersport State Championship and BEARS Formula 2 National Championship rounds on the Triumph, and Super Twin State and BEARS Formula 3 Championship rounds on the Ducati.

 

This turned out to be quite challenging, as the races for each class were run consecutively. Royce was forced to jump from one bike to the other as the team prepared the alternate bike while he was on track, all in 31°C heat.

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PIC: Things were heating up on the Triumph (Credit: LSM Photography)

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The team stood up to the test, with Royce winning both classes on the Ducati as well as F2 on the Triumph. He placed second behind Dallas Skeer (Suzuki) and in front of rising star Ben Liebig (Triumph) in the Supersport.

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PIC: Royce posted a new lap record for his class on the Duke (Credit: LSM Photography)

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The fact that rider and bikes were performing well was illustrated in the lap times. Royce held the lap record for BEARS F2 on the old Triumph and lowered that on the new bike by 0.8 of a second. He also held the F3 record on the old Ducati and lowered that with the new Duke by 1.1 seconds.

 

Unfortunately, Sunday’s racing was not quite as productive, as rain settled in just as racing was about to commence.

 

We didn’t have wet tyres, and although SA Superbike Champion, William Strugnell offered to lend us a set, we decided that our main objective wasn’t to gather championship points but to develop both bikes at high speed, which we couldn’t achieve in the rain. With that in mind, there was not much to gain, while the risks would have been high, especially that of Royce getting his hair wet and it subsequently going curly.

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PIC: The Triumph seems to have lowered times even further since being painted red (Credit: LSM Photography)

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We did manage a couple more races in the afternoon when the rain cleared, picking up where we left off, until the gear lever on the Ducati broke. This prompted an earlier drive home in daylight before the kangaroos took up residence on the road again.

 

Further testing will be conducted over the coming weeks, predominantly on the Ducati as we refine it further, before the bikes are shipped out to the Isle of Man.

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Two steps forward, one step back

Over the first weekend of April, the team returned to Mallala Raceway for round two of the SA Championships. This took place over the Saturday program, while Sunday played host to the gruelling Adelaide 3-Hour endurance race.

 

Track conditions were poor at best, particularly due to a severe dust storm which hit Adelaide on the Friday, resulting in a lack of grip for the riders over the entire weekend.

 

For Saturday’s Supersport Championship, there were two heats held. Royce put the Triumph on pole position in qualifying but with less than 0.2 of a second separating the first four riders.

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PIC: The Triumph was in good form Saturday (Credit: Deb Lock)

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Mallala is known for its three tight hairpin bends, all of which have relatively fast approaches. Race one saw Royce and Tim Donnon (Suzuki) engaged in a real slug-fest, as both tried to out-brake each other into each of these corners despite the adhesion problems, with the lead swapping several times.

 

With Royce leading on the last lap, Tim made a last-ditch effort to pass without success, and Royce relaxed to go on to what he thought would be an easy victory. However, unbeknownst to both, Michael ‘Pick-Pocket’ Villani had been shadowing the pair and managed to accelerate to the line to win by 0.01 of a second.

 

This motivated Royce to push for a stronger win in the second heat.

 

The Super Twin class gave the new Ducati its racing debut, with Royce putting the bike in pole position and then taking the two wins in the championship races.

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PIC: Royce got the jump on the field thanks to a Le Mans start to the 50km race (Credit: Deb Lock)

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The power of the new Duke was quite evident, particularly in a 50km race on the same day.

 

The race featured a Le Mans start, with Royce able to get away ahead of the pack and hold onto the lead for the entire race. Despite the determined efforts of Graham Snaith on his Yamaha R1, Royce took the victory by 0.1 of a second.

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PIC: Royce clocked up plenty of kilometres on the Triumph over Sunday (Credit: Deb Lock)

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Sunday’s 3-Hour race was treated as a test session for both bikes, with Royce on the Triumph partnered with Isle of Man teammate Paul Van der Heiden on the Ducati.

 

Royce was to take the Triumph out for 20 minutes, then come in for adjustments, while Paul took the Ducati out, repeating the process for three hours.

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PIC: It was a busy weekend for the Rowe Racing Team!

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The idea was to continue the setup on the bikes, but also to see if we could break the bikes and therefore identify any weaknesses. Looking at the latter of those two plans, both riders excelled themselves!

 

Paul pushed the Ducati back to the pits half way through his first session, and after Royce continued for about another hour, he also brought the Triumph back with a blown motor.

 

This meant work began on Monday to pull both bikes apart, with Brian and Locky working into the night, as they have to be ready for round three of the SA Titles and a round of the National BEARS series over Easter in less than two weeks.

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PIC: All was going well, until… (Credit: Deb Lock)

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The problems have been identified, neither of which were due to any of our own work, and we’re now just waiting for parts from Italy and England.

 

While complaining about having to clean the dust out of his new Birkenstock sandals and Kathmandu puffer-vest that had blown in from the storm, Royce also had this to say about the weekend…

 

“Being the first endurance event after the metal coming out of my legs, the team and I were interested to see where the body was at in terms of fitness.

 

“Saturday went great and I had some fun dicing with Tim before Michael snuck up on me in race 1!

 

“The 50km race was a good warm-up test for the quads, holding off old Snaithy. I’m still adjusting to the Ducati and finding where I need to be to ride it comfortably, so it was a bit taxing on the muscles.

 

“After the Ducati gave up in the 3 hour, I just put in some laps, becoming more and more comfortable on the Triumph until… the triumph gave up as well!

 

“Cycling to work the following few days has been pretty tough but the body is looking good for the bigger picture and I’ll be more ready come August – I can’t wait!”