The Battle of Ramsey

What a hectic day on The Island!

After the inclement weather earlier in the week, we had been granted two sessions for Friday – one in the afternoon and one in the evening, giving us a chance to get four laps in on both bikes.

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PIC: Royce on the line, finally staring into a blue horizon.

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The first session was on the Ducati. This was its first run since we arrived and it performed extremely well, Royce lapping just behind leader Dave Butler. Royce’s 110mph lap has given the team some much needed confidence heading into race week. Most of all, it was good to just get out there!

It was then time for the Triumph, which performed well following a few suspension tweaks. Royce is still lapping well, sitting in the top 20 riders as he slowly increases pace in certain sections. We changed the oil in the Triumph in a carpark just after the first session to be safe.

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PIC: Rowe Racing Repairs – We come to you!

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In the evening sessions, Royce was out on the Ducati first up and it was running well, allowing him to slowly build rhythm back up. Unfortunately, this was short-lived as he broke down at the Ramsey hairpin – basically the other side of The Island from the pits.

Royce managed to ring Les and tell him where he was. The recovery operation got underway as Les and Brian headed out to Ramsey, leaving Brian there to look after the bike, and then racing back to get Royce into the pits before the second session (MGP Junior/Senior on the Triumph) which had subsequently begun, ended.

It was quite the drive and we returned to the Paddock just as the session closed, missing it by literally one minute. Locky and Mark had the bike idling and ready at pit exit as we’d phoned them to tell them we were almost there but just missed it.

We then had to get back to Brian once the roads had re-opened, not getting there until about 10pm.

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PIC: No rest for the wicked!

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The team are now working through the night to get the Ducati fixed in time for an early practice session tomorrow (Saturday). The team have an inkling on what the issue may be, but obviously won’t take any chances on the Mountain Course, so will be checking the entire bike over for outliers.

Although losing two valuable practice/qualifying laps on both bikes isn’t ideal, Royce is still in high spirits and had this to say:

‘The morning started off well, with two solid laps on both bikes.

‘It was great to get some saddle time on the Duke, I felt comfortable on that quickly and will just keep building things up slowly. I’m still finding my groove on the Triumph but am just making sure I don’t rush the process of getting back to my old pace. It will come with time.

‘The evening session was a bit frustrating with the bike losing power coming into Ramsey, forcing me to retire. Ah well, plenty of track time for tomorrow!’

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PIC: On the pipe, boy! (Credit: Tracey’s Pics)

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The announcement came through not long ago that Saturday’s racing will have an amended schedule to account for some additional practice. The timing now runs as follows:

 

REVISED RACE DAY SCHEDULE – SATURDAY 24TH AUGUST 2019

11.00: Roads close around the Course

11.30: Classic TT Superbike and Lightweight Qualifying (2 laps) & Manx Grand Prix Senior and Junior/ Newcomers A Qualifying (2 laps)

12.05: Classic TT Junior Qualifying (2 Laps) & Manx Grand Prix Lightweight/ Ultra Lightweight/ Newcomers B&C Qualifying (2 laps)

13.15: BENNETTS SENIOR CLASSIC TT RACE (4 laps)

15.30: Back to the Future: The Hizzy Years Commemorative Lap

16.10: DUNLOP LIGHTWEIGHT CLASSIC TT RACE (4 laps)

18.10: Classic TT Superbike Qualifying & Manx Grand Prix Senior & Junior/ Newcomers A Qualifying (1 lap)

18.25: Classic TT Junior Qualifying (1 lap) & Manx Grand Prix Lightweight/ Ultra Lightweight/ Newcomers B&C Qualifying (1 lap)

19.30: Roads scheduled to open

 

After finally seeing some track time, the followers back in Oz have been flicking channels to find the best source to hear Royce.

As reported, Manx Radio is great for listening, along with manxgrandprix.tv for cool live footage. In terms of live timing and Sulby Speed Trap, we’ve found that live.iomttraces.com is great – you just need to sign-up with an email address, then pick the session and class you’d like to keep track of.

We also would like to thank every single person who has been showing support over the past few weeks! We’re all run off our feet here, so it’s sometimes hard to reply or pass on news in a timely manner. But, after just ticking over 1000 Facebook followers and regularly getting a couple hundred readers for each post on this blog, the support is well felt!

More rain hampers extended practice

After a soggy few days, the Clerk of Course had planned a double session for Thursday to help make up for lost time.

Unfortunately, the morning weather didn’t want to play ball and the extra early session was therefore canned. So, we waited around throughout the arvo for the evening session.

Just before the roads closed, there was a traffic accident on the mountain, so the start of the session was delayed by an hour.

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PIC: With the cold and rainy weather, The Duke stayed in bed all day.

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In the meantime, the rain returned and visibility dropped.

The Clerk of the Course decided to let Classics and Manx Grand Prix Lightweights out on an untimed sighting lap, but most Lightweight riders (including us) decided against it as the roads were too wet all around the course and there was nothing to be gained.

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PIC: A pink pub in Peel.

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We’re hoping for a double session tomorrow but will run the Ducati on a dyno first thing in the morning just to give it a blast and check it over before we get on track.

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PIC: Royce talking to Irishman Dave Butler in Parc Ferme waiting for the session to begin. Dave is starting the Lightweight class at number 5 (Royce is starting at 6) so we’ve been setting up alongside each other all week.

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Royce had this to say about another frustrating day on The Island, “We were so close to getting out tonight! It’s hard for me and the crew to get geared and amped up to go racing and then to pull the plug at the last moment.

“A bit of frustration hit tonight, with a delay due to a crash up on the mountain mile. The lap available out in the wet wasn’t gonna do us any good – there’s nothing to learn from it, so we decided to give it a miss.

“Tomorrow’s double sessions should supply some good saddle time finally.”

 

As it stands, the official statement for Friday’s riding is as follows:

Gary Thompson had already confirmed the additional Friday afternoon session due to the time lost earlier in the week. The confirmed schedule for qualifying for the Classic TT and Manx Grand Prix tomorrow (Friday 23rd August 2019) is as follows:

12.30: Roads close around the Course

13.00: Classic TT Senior & Junior/ Manx Grand Prix Lightweight & Ultra Lightweight/ MGP Newcomers B&C qualifying

14.30: Classic TT Superbike & Lightweight/ Manx Grand Prix Senior & Junior/ MGP Newcomers A qualifying

16.30: Roads opening around the Course

18.00: Roads closed around the Course

18.20: Classic TT Senior & Junior/ Manx Grand Prix Lightweight & Ultra Lightweight/ MGP Newcomers B&C qualifying

19.15: Classic TT Superbike & Lightweight/ Manx Grand Prix Senior and Junior/ MGP Newcomers A qualifying

21.00: All roads open around the Course

Competitors continue to battle weather woes

As expected, the heavens opened up Wednesday afternoon and the decision was made to cancel practice.

If weather permits, we’ll have two sessions tomorrow with roads closed early afternoon, then opened for people to get home, then closed again in the evening.

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PIC: Catching up with Stockers and Chris, official suppliers of Coopers to the team.

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The official statement came around 3pm Isle of Man time:

‘Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson has confirmed that due to the bad weather forecast during this evening’s (Wednesday 21st August) qualifying session for the Classic TT Races and Manx Grand Prix, the session has been cancelled.

Tomorrow will now feature two sessions which will run to the following schedule:

 

12.30:  ROADS CLOSED AROUND THE TT COURSE

13.00:  START CLASSIC TT SENIOR & JUNIOR/ MGP LIGHTWEIGHT & ULTRA LIGHTWEIGHT/ MGP NEWCOMERS B & C (2 LAPS)

14.45:  START CLASSIC TT SUPERBIKE & LIGHTWEIGHT/ MGP SENIOR AND JUNIOR/ NEWCOMERS A (2 LAPS)

16.30:  ALL ROADS AROUND THE TT COURSE OPEN

18.00:  ALL ROADS AROUND THE TT COURSE CLOSED

18.20:  START CLASSIC TT SUPERBIKE & LIGHTWEIGHT/ MGP SENIOR AND JUNIOR/ NEWCOMERS A (2 LAPS)

19.15:  START CLASSIC TT SENIOR & JUNIOR/ MGP LIGHTWEIGHT & ULTRA LIGHTWEIGHT/ MGP NEWCOMERS B & C (2 LAPS)

20.30:  ALL ROADS OPEN AROUND THE TT COURSE’

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PIC: Making friends when the sun was still shining!

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There wasn’t a great deal for the team to do, as the bikes are prepped and ready to see some track time. To pass the time, the team ended up listening for updates on the radio, then once the news came through ended up enjoying a quiet pint in a pub in Laxey.

With the early start, Aussie followers will be able to listen to Royce’s first practice at a half-reasonable hour. His first practice for the MGP Senior/Junior aboard the Triumph will set off at 10pm AEST. And for those willing to stay up and listen to the second set of sessions (4am AEST)… get that coffee brewing!

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PIC: Royce having a bar snack at a pub in Peel.

Another practice abandoned but contingencies now confirmed

Poor weather has once again halted practice on the Isle of Man.

Today we were all set to go with Royce contesting the Lightweight class (Ducati) first and then the Junior/Senior (Triumph) after.

The opening session was to start at 6.20pm. We were warmed up, fuelled up and helmet on when at 6.17pm it started to rain, forcing the session to be delayed for 10 minutes, then again and again until it really poured down and the decision was made to cancel practice all together.

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PIC: Before today’s session was due to start, Royce was interviewed by MGP TV who are planning to live stream most of the practices and all races this year. You can watch their Tuesday night pre-practice footage here.

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The weather doesn’t look like it’ll get any better tomorrow, so thankfully Clerk of Course, Gary Thompson has made the call to utilise the additional practice session on Thursday afternoon.

“The schedule will now see roads close around the TT Course at 12.30pm and reopen between 4.30pm and 6pm and then close again at 6pm for the evening qualifying session. The full schedule for Thursday’s qualifying programme will be released on Wednesday evening.”

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PIC: On Royce’s session yesterday he clipped a branch of a bush just before the Gooseneck, leaving quite a bruise. We went up there this morning and he did a bit of pruning.

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We’ve learnt from past years that patience is one of the most important qualities needed so we’ll just continue to wait.

We have to be down at Technical Inspection before 3.30pm every day but sessions don’t start until 6.20 (when they do start) so we’ve had to equip one of the vans with a bed for Royce to get his required amount of sleep.

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PIC: Royce in the makeshift snooze-mobile.

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After a much anticipated return to road racing, Royce had this to say, “Getting out on the bike Monday was great. The track was just how I remembered with a few spots being resurfaced and felt quite nice.

“I’m just easing into it with early braking and rolling through corners. I’ve now got my base lap and will work on getting back to my previous lap times.

“I snoozed in the van ‘til go time then hung around parc ferme waiting for the clerk of course to let us know they were ready. The sudden downpour that sent people scattering was the give away that tonight wasn’t gonna go ahead.

“Will rest up and prepare for the next day.”

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PIC: Royce making some smooth lines in Monday’s first practice (Credit: Nick Wheeler)

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Fingers crossed the heavens somehow hold off for Wednesday night’s practice, but if not we now at least know there’s an extra couple of sessions waiting for us on Thursday. Onward and upward!

Encouraging signs early for Rowe Racing Team

After some frustrating delays over the weekend, we finally got the chance to hit the track on Monday night (Tuesday morning AU time).

The Island saw some good weather, apart from a small amount of rain just before the session started, which meant the adhesion flags were out at Greeba, Gorse Lea and Ballacrain.

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PIC: Royce doing his best ‘pre-race Rossi ritual’ impersonation. (Credit: Beth Tucker)

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Royce headed out on the Triumph in the MGP Junior/Senior practice with the intention of easing himself back into the course showing the respect that the Mountain Course deserves.

We were surprised to see a 112mph lap flash up, putting him 14th in the standings. A full rundown of fastest laps can be found here.

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PIC: The pit crew catching up with South Aussie legend, and current fastest Aussie around the TT course, Davo Johnson. (Credit: Beth Tucker)

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Some minor adjustments are planned to the bike as Royce is experiencing a lot of wheel spin around the track, but overall the bike ran well and felt great.

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PIC: Royce blasting through Windy Corner (Credit: Deb Lock)

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Unfortunately, as Royce came in from his practice session, a red flag incident occurred at Black Hut which brought an end to practice for the day, which meant we couldn’t get out on the Ducati.

We’ve still managed to run the Duke up and down the road, but getting on track to start making minor adjustments and analyse data is really what we’re hoping for this week.

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PIC: Royce getting back into the swing of things (Credit: Tracey’s Pics)

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Good weather is predicted for tomorrow, so hopefully we can get more laps in on the Triumph as well as opening laps on the Ducati.

Roads are due to close at the same time tomorrow, 6pm. The MGP Junior/Senior session kicks off at 6.20pm and the Lightweight and Ultralight session for the Ducati at 7.15pm.

Bad weather hampers first practice

With the team prepped and Royce both mentally and physically ready to compete in first practice, it was a bit disappointing to have the news come through that Saturday and then Sunday practice were to be cancelled.

It was fine and sunny in Douglas but heavy rain fell between Glen Vine and Ramsey so we couldn’t get out on the Saturday.

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PIC: Technical inspection went well thanks to a meticulous machine checklist.

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We were ready to go as scheduled but there was a half hour delay due to the rain, then another half hour delay, then another, until it had to be called off altogether.

This is a bit stressful as we get ready to go then have to ramp everything down, get ready again and yet again stand down.

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PIC: Royce chatting with Matt Stevenson, winner of last year’s Senior race.

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Sunday was unfortunately cancelled due to a lack of marshals and impending poor weather. Given the track is so big, it’s a huge logistical ask to get people out across the whole island.

To try and help out the cause, a few of our very own support crew went out to help marshal. The girls were posted at Keppel Gate. In the early days the first rider who reached Keppel Gate had to stop and open it and the last rider through had to stop and close it.

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PIC: The girls doing their bit as volunteer marshals.

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Clerk of Course, Gary Thompson said, “What I don’t want to do is close the road, get everyone in place, have everyone waiting and then find we can’t hold the qualifying session, so we have decided to give everyone plenty of notice and cancel today’s session and concentrate on getting marshal numbers in place for Monday night.”

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PIC: We hire our vans from ‘4 Hire’, who look after us each year and do a great job.

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So, with weather permitting, the roads will now close at 6pm on Monday night (2am Tuesday AEST) for the first qualifying session, which is due to get underway at 6.20pm. This will be for Royce aboard the Triumph in the MGP Senior/Juniors, followed by the Ducati in the MGP Lightweights/Ultra Lightweights class scheduled to go out at 7.15pm.

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PIC: Before heading off to the track we gave the bikes a quick test on the road outside our accommodation, Ballacain Cottage.

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With some spare time, the crew have been catching up with old friends from past Manx Grand Prix events. The team also have enjoyed some hearty pub meals and great cultural events.

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PIC: There are a number of wild wallabies on the Island, mainly up on the mountain. A few escaped from a wildlife park a few years ago and have multiplied, and there is currently a wallaby festival going on all around the island, with statues and exhibitions all over the place.

 

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.

Special delivery

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.