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.

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.