Royce and team braved a freezing cold and nearly deserted Mallala over the weekend, jumping at the opportunity to get some track time.
The main aim was to see how the physio work was playing out for Royce and whether his movement on the bike had improved.
We were sharing a garage with Davo Johnson, with Royce riding the two-valve 650 Ducati and sharing the four-valve with Davo.
Due to the cold weather, with the temperature not going above the low teens all day,
the pair virtually had the track to themselves.
Royce’s lap times were slower than usual, but still very respectable and fast enough to have produced podiums if it had been a race meeting.
Before entering the custom-built Swedish sauna fitted on the Rowe Racing trailer to warm his Terminator bones, Royce had this to say:
“Good to be back at Mallala and more importantly on the bike!”
“After my last track day a few months ago at The Bend, I’ve been working hard to get some more mobility as I was really struggling with left-hand corners.”
“Giancarlossimus at Thrive Physio Plus worked wonders on my left hip and we saw a big step in the right direction to being able to jump around the bike. With a way to go with strengthening, and mobility still has room for improvement, the protein shakes will be in full force trying to frequent the gym to keep seeing improvements on the bike.”
“I’m feeling like I’m getting close to being race ready on the solo, but in the meantime, my sack of potatoes Jess and I are gearing up for a hillclimb event in October on his old Velo sidecar for a historic meet, which should be some jolly good fun ol’ chaps!”
Hopefully more ride days will be on the cards soon!
Motorcycle racing at Sellicks Beach, South Australia, was a major event throughout the 1920s, 40s and 50s. After the idea of resurrecting the event gained traction in recent years, the Levis MCC sprang into action, now hosting an historic meeting bi-annually which invites riders to race down the sand on motorcycles built before 1962.
The team at Doxboyz Racing offered Royce a ride on their 1949/50 500cc BSA sidecar for this year’s event.
Pic: The Doxboyz Racing team (Neil, Dean, Daniel and Jess Watson with Royce) preparing the bike at Rowe Racing HQ
The Watsons prepared the bike immaculately and had it performing beautifully ready for the meeting.
It was a steep learning curve for Royce, who had never raced on the sand, or raced a rigid frame/girder fork bike… or a sidecar for that matter!
However, he adapted well. On the Saturday, in the second of their four races, Royce and passenger Jess were in second place in the 4-lap race (a lap being one mile, 800 metres down the beach, around a drum and 800 metres back to turn around another drum).
Pic: You got a beach? You got a racetrack! (credit: Steve Davis)
Unfortunately, one problem with beach racing is the inevitable change of tides. This race had been left a bit late and the bike was swamped by a freak wave. You can check video out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1Rvp6LUxAY
Team mechanic Daniel dismantled most of the bike to try and get rid of the sand, sea water and seaweed and did a great job, getting the bike mobile for Sunday’s races, but the seawater had affected the magneto so it was no longer running correctly.
BRACE FOR IMPACT! (credit: Foot in bowl photography)
Nonetheless, Royce and Jess ended up 3rd overall after the four heats.
In what can be considered a nice nod to history, the founder of Rowe Racing, Darrell Rowe actually first started racing in 1950 on a sidecar at places such as Sellicks Beach, so after 70 years the wheel has turned full circle.
Pic: Not a bad way to spend your Sunday! (credit: Deb Lock)
After drying off and pulling the seaweed out of his lucky jocks, Royce said:
‘Sellicks Beach was a great way to tick off my first race back in motorsport – it was my first time on the sand and first time racing a sidecar. Being a classic bike, it was a slower pace so easier on the bones, apart from the big bumps from the sea wash, which I think Jess felt a lot more than me!
‘There was lots to learn being on the outfit, the body weight definitely making a difference to where the passenger was positioned – even if it was just the right hand corners. I loved the new experience!
‘Not knowing how to swim, I was hoping the tide wouldn’t come too far up but alas, last race of Saturday, Poseidon had other ideas and forced Jess and I to do our best Kelly Slater impression resulting in some overtime for Dan the mechanic man, with Dad, Neil and Dean’s expert opinion flowing in from the sideline!
‘After tackling the sand, I’m pretty sure this won’t be the end of our classic adventure, but some track days on a modern bike are definitely in the cross hairs, as I’m itching to get out on the Ducati!’
With decent weather slowly appearing in South Oz, Rowe Racing took the opportunity to break out the 650 Manx Ducati and 1000cc Rosser Ducati at the The Bend Motorsport Park recently.
Royce was looking comfortable and smooth on track, although still needed a bit of help getting on and off the bikes.
Pic: Royce’s new neck warmer is both aero-dynamic and distracting to chasing competitors… great success!
Both bikes were running perfectly as usual and it was great to maximise track time. There was full capacity on the track as riders emerged from lockdown hibernation as restrictions are further eased in South Australia as we are virtually back to normal.
(Credit: JGJ Photography)
After the long day, Royce had this to say;
‘First time back at The Bend after over a year and it was the busiest I’ve ever seen it! It was great fun on track being a bit easier on the bones then Mallala which was nice.
‘With loaded sessions, it made it fun still being able to go through lots of traffic at my reduced pace. Lots of stretching before each ride helped with the reduced mobility of the ol’ hips.
‘My program of gym and physio is helping slowly to allow me to move a bit better on the bike. I’m not quite ready for the length of a race just yet but I will get there and I’m very much looking forward to it!’
After a riding hiatus of almost ten months due to injuries suffered at last year’s Manx GP, Royce is finally back on the bike, taking part in a recent Mallala track day.
PIC: Royce and DJ promptly jumped into the team’s purpose-built disinfectant bath after realising the 1.5 metre rule had been breached!
The track was a little slippery holding damp patches all day, but over 80 riders were still in attendance for the track day as COVID-19 restrictions are gradually eased in Adelaide, Australia.
Royce and Dave Johnson took turns piloting the 650cc water-cooled Ducati that Royce rode at last year’s Manx GP.
PIC: Although damp in patches, Royce was quick to get back in the swing of things. (Credit: Deb Lock)
Royce also took the old air-cooled Duke out and Brian Rosser’s 1000cc Duke.
He attracted a lot of attention from familiar faces in attendance, impressing with his ability to get straight back onto three different machines and put in some very respectable lap times after such a long break from racing.
Although those times weren’t quite hitting his regular pace, track conditions and his physical restrictions all played a part, the latter still in the process of regularly improving thanks to gym work.
PIC: Our pit crew enjoying a well-deserved beverage after working hard to help ensure the day ran smoothly.
After ordering his fluffy duck at the Mallala Hotel, Royce had this to say,
“My last injury I was off the bike for six months, and this time it’s been pushed out to over 9 months! As many of you would understand, even a few weeks can be way too long of a time spent off the bike!
“Mallala is the first track I ever rode, so it was a comfortable place to start again.
“After getting the leg over the bike though, I now know why my Pa used to prefer climbing onto the sidecar in his old age.
“Luckily for me, my young bones have been healing well – however there’s still lots of hard work to come and it will be a while until I’m able to move around the bike like I used to.
“My hips were quite restricting when I was trying to get my knee out but I still had heaps of fun cutting a few laps.
“Thanks heaps to Dad and the crew that came out and safely social-distanced while helping me get out on the track, because I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it alone!
“With some more work in the gym and the physio to keep freeing up the body and I’ll be running in no time!”
PIC: Royce enjoying the smooth 650 water-cooled Ducati (Credit: Deb Lock)
With winter in full swing, we’re not sure on when the next track day will be, but fingers crossed some opportunities arise in coming months for Royce to continue practicing and returning his times back down to the point where he was previously. Thanks again to everyone for their support, see you trackside!
As with most in the current climate, there’s not a lot to report out of Rowe Racing HQ. Royce has been trying to keep busy and work on his fitness, albeit with gyms shut.
He was recently contacted by Road Racing UK to answer a bunch of questions for their top six series targeted at riders who’ve competed on the Isle of Man, you can read it here.
Unfortunately, news came through recently that the ManxGP and Classic TT will be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, much like most other international road races this year. Maybe the only plus was the journalist using a great picture of Royce as the story lead shot!
Although races are currently prohibited under social-distancing laws, fingers crossed some local tracks will have the opportunity to run race meetings soon while following social-distancing measures.
PIC: Royce poised and ready to jump back in the saddle!
Chatting to Royce in his hazmat suit from a solid 1.5 metres away, he had this to say.
“I know everyone is pretty eager to get back on their bike after the COVID-19 restrictions but I’m sure all of you understand, I’m extra eager.
“Very keen to swing my leg over a bike again (hips allowing) and to cut a few laps to get my fix instead of just dreaming of riding my beloved steed.
“Things were coming along well in the gym, with great guidance from my physio Matt, I was starting to get some heavier weights going.
“Not too much has happened in isolation gym-wise unfortunately as they’re shut, but just keeping moving, trying to get my flexibility back in my joints is good.
“I luckily managed to land a job with the government just before COVID-19 shut everything down, ending my 6 month long unemployed stint. A desk job compared to my previous hospitality work, my aching bones certainly welcomed it.
“The bike has been countlessly polished, ready and waiting to go, the count down now begins until the tracks reopen, I can’t wait!”
We’ll keep everyone updated once restrictions start to lift and Royce can hopefully get back on track to see how the body holds up!
After a relaxing Christmas break, Royce is continuing to progress well and gradually regain fitness. It will still be a number of months before he fully recovers, but he’s working hard with a view to getting back on the race track as soon as possible.
(Credit: Tracey’s Pics)
Speaking to Royce after his seventh protein shake for the day in an attempt to bulk up, he had this to say;
‘The slowest I’ll ever go is right now on my slow road to recovery.
‘Each day though, I’m upping the speed and making progress. All the doctors have been very happy with how things have been healing.
‘I’ve been in the gym doing my physio and trying to stack the weight back on. At the end of the month I’ll try to get out to The Bend Motorsport Park for a look at the first round of the SA Titles so I can get bit of a motorcycle fix!
‘Beth, my family, friends and even strangers have all been so supportive in my recovery and I thank you for that. Hopefully I’ll recover enough in the coming months to get back on the bike, dreaming of racing isn’t quite cutting it anymore!’
Thanks to the amazing work by the staff at Aintree Hospital, we now have Royce back on home soil to start the rehab process in Adelaide.
PIC: Even after the tediously long flight, Royce and Beth had a smile after landing back in SA
We’d like to thank everyone for their well wishes over the whole period and the continued support through Royce’s recovery.
Catching up with Royce over a Nippy’s juice and frog cake, he said, “Home sweet home! The last few weeks spent in Liverpool I was pretty ready to go home.
“Beth and I were both getting a bit homesick, but the nurses were doing a great job keeping our spirits up and so were the messages from home.
PIC: An honourary red
“The day trip out to Liverpool city was freezing! But was great to get out for a cheeky Guinness and a wonderful feed.
“The physio work I’ve done in the hospital has brought me to my feet and slowly hobbling around now, but still lots to go to get my muscle back.
PIC: The rehab is well underway
“Plenty of Maccas and fatty foods will be had to try and aid in my plight to put back on the 20kg I lost.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone that sent messages or spoke to my family to pass on well wishes, I really appreciated it all and it gave me that little extra encouragement to work hard and get home.
“Cheers everyone, it will take a bit more than this to keep me down!”
After working hard to build strength back up in his injured body, Royce has been transferred from the Critical Care Unit to the Major Trauma Ward at Aintree, and is making good progress.
Whilst recovering, he will remain in the UK. Due to some of the procedures undertaken after the incident, there’s a certain recovery time that must be adhered to before being allowed to fly, so he’ll be staying put until at least mid-December. By that stage he should be much fitter and have an easier journey home.
PIC: Royce with his latest accessory at Aintree Hospital
The support from the racing community in the Isle of Man and the UK has been overwhelming, with many people contacting and visiting Royce.
PIC: Just some of the Manx GP marshalls who were at Alpine corner to assist Royce at the time of the incident. We thank all of them (some not pictured) who went above and beyond for us during the difficult time immediately after the crash and subsequent days following.
Mum, Debbie and partner, Beth have been residing at the hospital accommodation since the incident, and have had many people take them out for shopping or lunch breaks. People from home have also been sending their best wishes and providing support, which is greatly appreciated.
We’d especially like to mention Ali Hay, who has made a number of long trips from Cumbria to Liverpool with supplies. Wyn Evans and Will Kneen have also given up much of their time, and Island Express has gone out of their way to assist us. The Ducati Owners Club of South Australia and the Manx Grand Prix Supporters Club have also provided kind assistance throughout Royce’s recovery, which has been a massive help.
PIC: Royce and team member Simon Milazzo during practice week, who has been providing an enormous amount of support to us behind the scenes.
Since the incident, we’ve had the task of preparing the bike for shipping from the Isle of Man back to Australia. Ryan Cringle spent an entire day helping Les retrieve the Triumph after it had been impounded and then released. That job would have been impossible without his assistance and are profoundly grateful for Ryan taking the time out to help us.
PIC: Ryan cleaning off about half a ton of the best Manx soil and several litres of oil from the bike before shipping.
We’re also very grateful to the staff at Aintree Hospital who have provided outstanding care which is regarded as world’s best practice. We understand racing is a dangerous sport and are lucky to have Royce still with us – many doctors have had a hand in his recovery, but the initial protection came from the quality of his gear. Nothing could have prevented the injuries totally, but we recognise the quality of Furygan leathers and Shoei helmets which proved to be outstanding.
PIC: Royce and Rosie the aid dog hanging out
Now awake and conversing huskily as his lungs repair slowly, Royce had this to say while sipping on his blended full-English breakfast smoothie, “Slowly but surely I’m making progress. My lungs have increased in size a little. Coughing fits have subsided, with only a little phlegm coming up from the infection which we have seemed to beat.
“The displaced rib of my broken ribs can cause me a little grief when on my back but seems to have healed well. I can say I’m a proper biker now having broken my first collar bone! It has healed well with a nice bend so you clearly see it was broken as proof!
“My legs are slowly getting stronger with the right in a moon-boot and the left femur being able to weight bare. Physios are getting me to walk a bit very slowly using a pull pit machine.
“My scaphoid is still in a cast, probably for another week or so. I had a hearing test because when I woke from ICU my hearing was gone in the right ear. The test confirmed that the impact my head had in the crash damaged my inner ear which is unfortunately permanent. When we get back to Oz, hearing aids seem to be the way to go… or a large megaphone.
“Apart from that I’m tip top! The hospital plans to get me on a vigorous rehab program very soon, so that should get me up and about a lot more.”
Once again, the team would like to thank every single person who has gone out of their way to help or just check-in on Royce and the family. We’ll provide further updates as Royce continues to improve.
It’s now been three weeks since Royce’s incident at the Manx GP and he’s thankfully beginning to show signs of improvement.
Late last week, the doctors felt Royce was stable enough to begin lowering the amount of sedation he was receiving. It’s been a slow process, but he’s slowly coming to.
Each day he seems to get better at communicating, initially just by mouthing words but now has built up the strength to quietly talk.
Strength has also slowly built in his chest, meaning his breathing has improved dramatically.
With that said, due to the tracheostomy, he’ll still need some help for a little while until eventually removing the tube altogether so the entry-cut can heal.
The planned surgeries to his ankle, collarbone and ribs will no longer be needed as too much time has passed and the injuries have begun to knit themselves. His ankle was set and plastered from the beginning, so hopefully the only thing affected are his dance moves… which couldn’t get much worse.
Once the doctors feel Royce is ready and has the necessary strength, the rehab will begin. The hospital staff are keen to get him moving as soon as possible to ensure it’s a smooth and successful recovery.
The family again would like to thank all the individuals and organisations that have sent well wishes and offered support in their own incredible way. The support shown to Royce and his loved ones over this time has been amazing.