The Duc has landed

Rowe Racing has hit the Isle of Man for 2019!

The flight over was as tedious as ever, with probably 27 hours spent in transit all up.

As expected, the whole team are still adjusting to the time difference and coping with jet lag. Initially, the coffee was being brewed at 5am each morning, but having settled over the past few days, the team seem to be getting back into a more sociable routine.

The boys were sent down to collect all the bikes and gear on Monday, then the task of setting up our makeshift garage at the cottage homestead began.

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PIC: Picking up the bikes and gear from Island Express

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Over the past day or so, the team have started preparing the bikes and collecting all of the tyres, oil and sundry materials.

We all feel quite at home being back on The Island, with family friends the Kneens collecting us from the airport and everyone we meet offering any assistance they can.

Just one example being that some frame work within the crates had fractured during the long-haul freight over from Aus. A local engineering firm stopped everything to weld it back together free of charge, which was hugely appreciated. However, they did warn Les to keep his distance from the power tools.

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PIC: This is ‘Rowe Racing HQ’ for the next fortnight or so

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The weather has unfortunately been all over the place but hopefully first practice on tomorrow (Saturday) will be okay – the last thing we need is more delayed practice time!

Yesterday, the team attended sign-in and all went well. A number of officials welcomed Royce back and were very pleased to see him.

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PIC: Hopefully Royce picks up the pace on track if his mowing skills are anything to go by!

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Royce has also been doing a few laps of the course in the car to check out surface changes. This also helps him familiarise with visual cues and distances between markers.

Royce still watches a lot of on board footage to get in the zone. One of which has been posted to YouTube and shows just how fast certain sections of the Mountain Course are! You can watch it here.

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PIC: Popping in to see the fairies for luck!

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And now with everything in place… we wait for the riding to start!

For those interested in our schedule for the next fortnight, the 2019 Manx GP programme can be found here. Keep in mind there’s approximately an eight-hour time difference between the Australian eastern states and Douglas, IOM.

 

The Manx GP website has also updated their live streaming platform, so the Aussies can follow Royce in his races. Visit https://manxgrandprix.tvfor more info.

 

Manx Radio will have coverage from the get-go and are great to listen to for instant updates during the actual races. Visit https://www.manxradio.com to listen.

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After a long summer of racing and countless nights tinkering away at Rowe Racing HQ, the time has finally arrived for the Manx GP race bikes and equipment to been shipped off.

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PIC: Royce with team members Darryl and Cooper Withy at Mallala the weekend before crating.

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All the team who are heading over to the Isle of Man spent the whole of last Saturday and Sunday crating the bikes, spares, tools and equipment, all weighing in at one tonne.

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PIC: Royce, Locky, Howard and Mark doing final preparations on the Triumph.

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The Rowe’s would like to give a huge thanks to Brian, Locky, Mark, Howard, Kerry, Deb, Clair and Derek for putting in some long hours.

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PIC: After hours of tetris, we squeezed everything for the trip into our two crates

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The crates were collected by Northgate Towing and taken to the air freight depot, where Bikes Abroad arrange for them to be flown to the UK and subsequently shipped over to the Isle of Man by Island Express. These are the firms that have helped us every year and make the tricky process manageable.

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PIC: Special delivery!

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With the bikes and equipment taken care of, we now get ready to follow them in a few weeks time.

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PIC: The two beasts all stickered up and ready to race!

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The Ducati has been dressed up at last, thanks to Darryl Withy and Marty Redshaw. We can’t wait to see it in action soon!

Preparation underway for 2019 Manx GP

The Rowe Racing crew have been busy bodies over the past month, with preparation underway for the 2019 Manx GP in full swing.

 

Although there’s been no racing lately due to the winter break, we have been testing at Mount Gambier, Mallala and Tailem Bend.

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PIC: Royce and Michael Villani discussing the weather at Mallala

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Unfortunately, we’ve had to dodge the showers at each of the tracks but have still managed valuable development on the Ducati. We could always do with more though as frustratingly, all test days were shortened by rain.

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PIC: Locky and Brian doing their thing in the garage at Tailem Bend

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The only problem encountered was running out of fuel at Tailem Bend on one occasion, which provided Royce with the opportunity to get some exercise, as he had to push the bike 800 metres back to the pits.

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PIC: A rare glimpse into the R&D Department, otherwise known as Brian’s potting shed, working on the Ducati.

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In other exciting news, starting numbers are out for the ManxGP! As the Isle of Man is a time trial circuit, before the riders even get to start practice they’re assigned a starting position based on previous performances and predicted outcome.

 

Royce has been assigned number five on the Triumph for the Junior and Senior races, while the Ducati will wear number six in the Lightweight race.

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PIC: Royce said, “I’m pretty happy with these numbers as I won’t have heaps of traffic to battle through like I did in my first year when starting at number 58, but I’ll also still have someone to chase, all things going well!”

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Royce is now in full training mode and took time out of his busy Zumba schedule to tell us how he’s tracking, “I’m getting more comfortable on the new Duke every time we go out. Although, I’ve found it goes much faster when you’re not pushing it back to the pits!

 

“I’ve also been in the dance studio and gym with a tailored training program that has been helping me leaps and bounds – just little leaps though, my knees have prematurely aged a bit!

 

“Due to weather, there potentially could be only one more track day before the crating of the bikes. We could always do with more time to develop the bikes but we should be ready come Manx. Keen as!”

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PIC: Cutting some laps on the new-and-improved Ducati (Credit: JGJ Photography)

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We hopefully have one or two more chances for testing before crating the bikes in mid-July, as the Manx GP itself kicks-off in mid-August.

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.

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!”

And now for something completely different…

Over the summer break, Brian has been working every night in the potting shed at the back of his garden that he uses as his workshop.

 

There’s been the constant sound of hammering and flashes of electric light coming from inside the shed, culminating in a roar of thunder and a shout of “It’s alive!”.

 

The end result is the Ducati 650 Manx Mk II – a water-cooled, twin-cylinder four-valve machine, made from various parts of Ducati 848, 821 and 749R bikes, a hint of Aprilia and a lot of BJR components, including a frame made by Brian from scratch.

 

The team took the bike down to Mount Gambier a few weeks ago to see if it would run and handle.

 

Royce was accompanied by our teammate from our New Zealand venture, Howard Sabey, who has also been the test pilot for the earlier BJR Ducati’s that Brian started building some years ago.

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PIC: Royce and Howard debate who’ll be the first to ride the new machine

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Straight off the bat, the bike showed plenty of power and superb handling.

 

A subsequent dyno test has found 107 horsepower so far, with further development still to go.

 

There is a lot of work to be completed yet, including getting components sorted and in the right place, like a fairing, a large-capacity tank fitted and other Isle of Man style mods, but we still expect it to be ready for this year’s Manx Grand Prix.

 

And now for something completely different… Rowe Racing dusted off the old 1938 350 Ariel Red Hunter, originally built by Rowe Racing founder Darrell Rowe, for the Collingrove Hill Climb last weekend, conducted by the Atujara MCC in the Barossa Valley.

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PIC: Not sure if that’s oil or Royce’s shadow under the bike here on the start line (Credit: Glen Hand)

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Royce had to adapt from the 130 horsepower Triumph to the 15 horses produced by the Ariel, but still managed to get the bike up the hill… eventually!

 

It was a relaxing break from testing and a very enjoyable meeting, run superbly by the Atujara Club as usual.

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PIC: Safe to say, the knee sliders got a rest over the hill climb weekend (Credit: Glen Hand)

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Our next race meeting is the Adelaide 3-Hour endurance race on April 6 – 7 run by the Phoenix MCC, which we will be using as another test session for both the Triumph and the new Ducati.

 

Back on track

It’s been a great summer break for the team and exciting year ahead awaits. Much of the holiday period was spent stripping and rebuilding the Triumph’s engine in temperatures reaching the high 40’s.

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PIC: The team battled through the heat over Christmas to get the Triumph race-ready

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Royce also got the chance to ride in a parade lap during the Adelaide Motorsport Festival on Neil Watson’s 1937 350 Velocette. Given it’s hosted on a street circuit, it was a great experience to ride a track not many others get the opportunity to visit.

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PIC: Royce riding at the Adelaide Motorsport Festival

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The Rowe Racing Team has resumed racing for 2019 with round one of the South Australian Championships held at Mallala over the 11 to 12 February weekend.

 

Saturday was spent running the bike in and allowing Royce to feel comfortable on track after surgery over Christmas to remove the remaining rod, plates and screws in both legs.

 

He was still sore and restricted in movement as he hasn’t been able to do any gym work yet, and matters were further compromised as a couple of corners at the track had been patched with a silicone compound as a short-term fix for cracking, which made the surface extremely slippery.

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PIC: It didn’t take long for Royce to get back into the groove (Credit: Deb Lock)

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Nonetheless, Royce got back into the groove on Sunday race-day with two races each on the Triumph and Ducati.

 

The Ducati was on-song and Royce won both races in the Super Twin class.

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PIC: There was some tight racing over the weekend (Credit: Deb Lock)

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The Triumph was running well but Royce didn’t have an easy time of it, up against some fierce competition from Tim Donnon (Suzuki GSX-R600), Ben Liebig (another Triumph) and arch rivals Michael Villani (Suzuki GSX-R600) and Evan Byles (Kawasaki ZXR600).

 

Tim is one of the Rowe Racing supporters who has assisted us with the bikes, putting in a number of hours in the shed over summer, and it was Royce and Tim who managed to break away from the pack in both races and put on a great display, swapping the lead in good, close racing.

 

Royce managed to get ahead each time, winning both races.

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PIC: They say red is the fastest colour… here’s hoping! (Credit: Deb Lock)

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After the successful weekend and aiming to get his body back to 100%, Royce had this to say as he sipped on his kale and ginger juice:

“I was a bit apprehensive leading up to the race weekend with little time in the gym after my surgery because of an infection.

“But after getting into the groove being around some other fast guys, the adrenaline helped with the pain and I managed some alright lap times to put me up the pointy end. “I had a great time dicing with Tim and glad to be on the bike after the January holiday. I can’t wait to get fitter and stronger and have some more fun on the bike!”

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PIC: “Are you sure this is the left-handed screwdriver, Brian?”

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We now have a busy schedule of track days ahead, fine-tuning the Triumph and getting Royce race-fit, with our next race being the Adelaide 3-Hour in April. We’ll keep everyone updated with progress over the coming months, especially as we draw ever-closer to the Manx GP in late August.

The Chequered Flag for 2018

It’s been a big 2018 for the Rowe Racing Team!

 

Everything will almost have come full circle as Royce goes in for his final surgery next week to remove the rod from his femur and screws from his knee, putting him back onto a gopher for the start of 2019.

 

A blog post from one year ago, almost to the day, shows Royce in the same gopher making his way around Mallala. It mentions our preparation for the racing year ahead, which will be repeated this summer.

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PIC: Royce slowly relearnt how to get his knee down after returning to racing earlier this year

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Following that slow start, we had a great turnout for the annual Manx GP fundraiser night. All enjoyed the engaging speakers and banter between old mates. We’d again like to thank all those that attended.

 

April’s Easter Mac Park meeting saw Royce’s first return to racing after his fateful Isle of Man crash. It didn’t take long for him to get back into the swing of things, winning almost every race contested.

 

Over 2018, there has been many hours put into testing and development of the Triumph. The bike is in a much better place, but after the planned strip down in the months to come, there’ll be more testing and practice to come.

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PIC: The team put many hours into testing at many different tracks over 2018

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The Ducati also performed well all year, as expected. Royce had a blistering finish to the year, resulting in his 2nd place overall in the Limited Championship.

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PIC: The Ducati performed well all year, as did Royce’s new Furygan leathers and FÜSPORT boots

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Since our last blog post, there hasn’t been any racing as such, but Royce took part in a parade lap at the Adelaide Motor Sport Festival on part of the old Formula One track.

 

He was offered a ride on Neil Watson’s 1937 350 and 500 Velocettes, which was a great blast from the past.

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PIC: Royce doing his best Stanley Woods impersonation

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As for the rest of 2018, we’ll fit one more track day at The Bend in this Sunday before Royce’s surgery, then hopefully see a fast recovery as Manx GP 2019 is on the horizon.

 

Reflecting over 2018 next to the Christmas tree, sipping his lactose-free eggnog, Royce said, “Being back in the saddle throughout my comeback year has been awesome fun. It’s relieving to be back up to speed to where I was pre-crash.

“I’d like to thank all my sponsors for supporting me and I can’t wait to show everyone what I’m made of back at the Manx in 2019.

“Have a Merry Christmas everyone and keep ‘er lit!”

 

Again, none of this would be possible without our generous sponsors.

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PIC: “One photo, then I’ve gotta get back to this rebuild” – Rowe Racing Team Principal, Moddey

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We’re back on track in February for Round One of the South Australian Championships. Until then, have a great festive season – may your tyres be warm and rides be long!

Season ends on high note for team RR

The team had hoped to compete in a 3-Hour endurance race at Mount Gambier a couple of weeks ago but unfortunately the event was cancelled. It still provided us with some extra practice to continue our tuning of the Triumph.

 

Over the first weekend of November however, we were back ready to race at Tailem Bend for the final round of the State Championships.

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PIC: The team talking tactics at The Bend (Credit: Deb Lock)

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Although spring has thrown up some inclement weather, we were lucky enough to score a warm weekend, with temperatures hitting 30 degrees in the paddock and 42 degrees on track.

 

The Ducati ran well as always, with Royce winning the Twin Cylinder class and setting a new lap record for that class to boot. As riders become more accustomed to the new track, we can expect to see it drop even further, which makes the racing all that much more exciting!

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PIC: The Ducati was on-song as always (Credit: Deb Lock)

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Looking at us from the opposite side of the pit shed, the team was happy to acknowledge that the Triumph has come a long way with development. We’re happy with its current form, but we’re still keen to try more ideas to see if there can be further improvements made.

 

We tried some variations with its geometry this weekend and it paid off, with Royce improving his PB by two seconds.

 

The Supersport class saw some great racing, with Royce taking third and at the same time winning the BEARS Formula 2 class, which was run concurrently.

 

We were treated to a great battle between Royce on the Triumph and Evan Byles on his 600 Kawasaki – Royce just edging out Evan after they swapped position 12 times over the eight lap race.

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PIC: Royce dicing with Evan Byles in the Supersport class (Credit: Deb Lock)

 

That was the final race meeting for the year but we have a few more test sessions planned before Christmas, and then will strip down the Triumph for inspection over the summer while Royce has some more metal removed.

 

Relaxing after race day with a warm Bonox, Royce yelled out from his Radox bath:

 

“Being back at The Bend with a few more adjustments to the Triumph, I was feeling a lot more comfortable and had noticed my fitness improving each time I get in the saddle.

 

“With new PBs on both bikes, and some real tight racing on the Triumph with Evan Byles, I had some great fun and learnt a lot more about the track.

 

“My first season back on the bike since the crash is now done and dusted! I’d like to thank all my family, friends and sponsors for supporting me and not putting up too much of a protest with me getting back on the bike with everything I put you all through last year.

 

“Thanks to Dad and Brian for the countless hours in the shed and at the race track working on the bike. I’d also like to thank Mum and Beth for the support and Leonard for writing the captivating, Walkley Award-deserving blogs. I can’t wait for what next year has in store for us!”

 

The wider team hope’s everyone has a great break and we’ll be keeping you updated with any developments as they occur over the summer.

More turbulent testing for the Trumpy

The recent long weekend played host to round four of the SA Championships at Mac Park.

The Ducati 650 performed well as always in the Limited class, with Royce getting off to a flyer and winning the first of four races. He then came second in the 2nd race, only finishing 0.1 secs behind Michael Villani. The tight racing continued, but Royce managed to hold off and win the last two races, collecting the overall honours.

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PIC: The Ducati was on-song all weekend (Credit: LSM Photography)

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The Triumph was also going well in the Supersport class. We’re happy with its development and while there is still a way to go, it’s handling and performance are where we want it to be.

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PIC: The Triumph proved to be a handful over the weekend (Credit: AVR Photography)

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This was the first time Royce had ridden the new Triumph at Mac Park, which is a very demanding circuit, and we found he has a bit further to go before he’s fully race fit.

He managed a 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th in his four races.

Royce found it very fatiguing and, in hindsight, we probably made the wrong decision to run the Triumph on full fuel tanks over the weekend. (The tank has been modified to take 21 litres for the Isle of Man and we wanted Royce to get familiar with that full fuel load again, but this would have made it a bit more of a handful).

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PIC: With how serious Brian takes cutting weight on the Trumpy, it’s lucky Royce is such a bean pole!

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The power the Triumph is making is very good, but on the tight Mac Park circuit we found it wanted to wheel stand everywhere. We even cut back the screen to give Royce more room to get himself further forward on the bike in an effort to try and keep the front wheel down.

A surprise was the introduction of a ‘Best Presented Bike Award’ for the meeting, which we won with the Triumph. This will go straight to the pool room alongside our similarly named best presented team award which we received at the Manx GP.

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PIC: The legendary Douggie Dukes awarding Royce the prize for best presented bike.

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Rewarding himself with a white wine spritzer after a tough weekend, Royce had this to say from the Mac Park canteen, “Scoring some nice weather on the weekend was lucky!

“I always feel at home on the Ducati and had some good fun pumping some laps out.

“After recently racing at Phillip Island and Tailem Bend, which are tracks with plenty of rest time down the straights, I thought my body was in reasonable condition with gym work paying off. Racing at Mac Park on the Triumph was another story!

“Being such a physically demanding track, my body was getting pretty tired wrestling the 675. Time in the saddle is what’s going to get me fitter so I’m looking forward to the 3 Hour at Mac Park at the end of the month.”

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PIC: Royce is looking forward to further developing the Triumph (Credit: LSM Photography)

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Our next event is possibly a 3 hour endurance race on the Ducati in about a month, and then the final round of the SA Championships in November. Plus, we’ll be undertaking continued testing sessions for the rest of the year as usual.