Back on track with historic ride

Earlier this month, Royce made his eager return to motorcycle competition after a lengthy hiatus due to the major accident at the Isle of Man in 2019.

Rather than opting for the modern steed, the team took up an offer from Andrew Burford to ride his 1976 TR 750 Suzuki two-stroke triple at the Australian Historic Road Racing Championships.

PIC: Royce was warmly welcomed back to competition by riders and spectators alike, all being impressed with his fast and smooth riding style which had not altered despite his break from racing. (Credit: Pierre Cazes Sport Photographer)

Held at Mac Park, Mount Gambier, it was a massive race meeting which had been postponed twice in the past two years due to COVID. The track was bustling with over 350 entries from every state and territory in Australia and spectators from all around the country.

The majority of riders had been waiting the same amount of time for this opportunity to hit the track thanks to border closures and lockdowns, so the atmosphere was undeniably electric.

PIC: Pit Lane Exit. Royce and Les talking tactics while owner, Andy Burford, far left, is on the phone to Suzuki Motor Corporation talking sponsorship. (Credit: Pierre Cazes Sport Photographer)

Royce entered the TR in two classes, the Formula 750 Championship and the Unlimited Championship (for bikes up to 1300cc).

The TR is still being developed and we encountered a few issues over the course of the meeting, including clutch and gearbox complications, but we continued on with Royce having to find work arounds for the minor problems.

We were rapt to see him secure second place in the F750 Championship and fifth in the Unlimited Championship – despite giving away more than 50% additional engine capacity.

Credit: Pit Lane Studio

The TR was a testament to Andrew Burford’s determination, as it has taken him a couple of decades to complete the build and an amount of money we won’t publish in case his wife reads this.

Despite having the reputation as a hard man, Andy admitted to being a bit emotional as Royce crossed the line in his last heat.

After peeling Royce off the TR seat and onto a bar stool, he had this to say:

“I’ve been looking forward to this weekend’s racing! I’ve been working hard in the gym for a while now, so having a good crew by my side, it was set to be a good one.

“A month out from my wedding, I was torn between instructions. An angel and a devil on my shoulders, Beth saying take it easy, I don’t need a matching plaster cast to my wedding dress. In the other ear, Andy saying go hell for leather.

“With both of these thoughts in mind, I built my pace up slowly whilst still getting that adrenaline fix of having a tyre-to-tyre battle with fellow riders – a fix I’ve gone so long without.

“Feeling a bit like Zoolander and not being able to turn left due to ground clearance, plus a bit of a slipping clutch and some creaky bones, the bike was still manageable with each session getting quicker.

“I’ve missed that two-stroke feeling, obviously the 750 has a lot more power than Dad’s TZ125, but the vibrations, noise and smell still gave me those nostalgic feels of when I was younger.

“The meeting itself was jam packed full of riders and bikes. Of all the events to come back to for my first solo race, the historic championship was great. After a big weekend of riding and the ol’ hips getting a bit sore, limping around the pits I felt right at home with all the old codgers hobbling to the bar to reflect on a great weekend.

“Thanks to Andy for the privilege of getting to race the TR and Neil Gross for putting a lot of effort into getting it race ready. Neil gave some great pointers when I first tried taming the beast which really helped and his handy work is nothing short of genius. Also Doxboyz for the help and comradery over the weekend. Also the Pitmans for their help and advice, plus of course Dad for everything he does to enable my racing!

“I can’t wait to get back out on the bike next but first, I’ll go get hitched!”

Credit: Pit Lane Studio