Royce Rowe has come a long way, in more ways than one.
Almost 10,000 miles of land and sea separates the mythical road-racing capital of the world, the Isle of Man, and Royce's beloved Australian homeland. Painfully, Adelaide couldn't have felt further away for Royce after a horrific smash 2 miles into the course at Union Mills 20 months ago, which saw the 25-year-old career into the unforgivable street furniture that lines the streets of the Mountain Course, his bike obliterating on impact. 24 fractures followed by extensive and complex surgery meant that Royce's return home was temporarily prevented, where he spent 3 months recuperating on the Island. His knees were shattered, along with his promising racing career...So we thought.
2019 sees the remarkable return of Royce Rowe. Just 7 months after the incident, Royce threw his (rather second hand) leg over the bike again. The fire in the belly for racing was re-lit.
Manx Grand Prix's Sam Bowers caught up with ever-excitable Royce as he plans to make the pilgrimage to the Isle of Man in August once again.
SB: Sorry to remind you, but just give us an idea as to the extent of injuries you sustained during the 2017 Junior MGP.
RR: "The impact from hitting the lamppost and bouncing along the road gave me 24 breaks spread across my right femur and knee, left tibia and knee, right radius and ulna. Luckily I sustained no internal, spine or head injuries including concussion, so I was conscious for the whole thing - which I think is a good thing because I can remember exactly what I did wrong."
SB: You spent some time at the Joey Dunlop Foundation while on the Island during your recovery. What was it like when you finally got the go ahead to return home?
RR: "It was great to get out of the hospital and over to The Joey Dunlop Foundation where Gilly Keown and Bruce Baker looked after us really well. They were very accommodating. Getting close to the 3-month mark, I was pretty much ready to go home, however we were waiting for my knees to be able to bend to a certain degree to adhere to the airline’s flying requirements. Working with Cath from Rex Physio, she did an amazing job getting me to the point where I was able to fly. When we were given a date that we could fly home it felt like Christmas, which it was getting pretty close to anyway!"
https://www.facebook.com/royce.rowe/videos/10217590309848100/ - (Royce makes the most of his crutches)
SB: When did you ditch the two wheels of a wheelchair and finally get on two wheels with an engine between your legs?
RR: "Once I got home I was in the wheelchair for a few weeks before I progressed to the crutches. With plenty of physio, I ditched the crutches and got back on the bike pretty much straight away. A 7-month hiatus from riding was the longest I've gone since I first rode a bike when I was 8. I was a little nervy getting back on the racetrack, and with all the metal in my legs I found it hard to bend them how I used to. With a few foot peg adjustments to help me steer the bike round corners I was much more comfortable. My first race meeting was at one of my favourite tracks, Mac Park in Mount Gambier, which was a great way to get back into the flow of things. Winning 7 out of 8 races and coming within half a second of my lap record, I then knew I had it in me to make a comeback to racing."
SB: Has your perception of the Isle of Man changed since your return to racing?
RR: "To be honest, not really. I knew the dangers before I went racing on the Isle of Man. I've crashed plenty of times before circuit racing. You just need to get straight back on the horse really, but it is especially hard having to wait after an injury. I still think the Isle of Man is the best racetrack and hosts the best events in the world."
SB: Do you feel as if you are approaching the MGP this year as a newcomer or as an experienced rider?
RR: "I still feel like an experienced rider despite missing a year at the Isle last year. I continue to watch all my on-board videos, as well as other rider's to keep my knowledge up. Nonetheless, I'm sure I'll be a little bit ginger around Union Mills where I had the crash, to start off with at the very least."
SB: With the MGP just over 4 months away, are you feeling back to your competitive best?
RR: "We've been getting the bikes up to where we want them after having to start from scratch again with a brand new Triumph; the old one not being exactly road worthy, as you can imagine. My body is nearly back to where it was before the crash, fitness wise, with just a few extra aches now than before haha! I’ve recently bettered my lap records at the circuit in Mount Gambier and improved on my PB’s elsewhere, so come August, I'll be ready."
SB: The MGP is becoming more competitive every single year. Do you feel confident that you can pick up where you left off and break the exclusive 120mph barrier and become part of the Tommy Club?
RR: "I felt like I had it in me in 2017 when I got a 119.9mph lap from a standing start. Whilst I'll still work my pace up slowly, I'm feeling confident that I can join the Tommy Club, and I'm pretty excited to do so."
SB: How much preparation goes into shipping practically a whole race team with bikes and equipment 10,000 miles from Australia to the Isle of Man?
RR: "A lot of preparation! Team Manager, AKA Dad, does a great job of organising things. We normally have a team of around 10 that go over to the Island, being family and friends who have to take three weeks off work, and pay for their accommodation and food etc. We also have to organise the 27 hour long flights, rental cars, vans and of course, the bikes! Flying the bikes over is not only expensive but involves a lot of paperwork with customs. We pack nearly everything except the kitchen sink, including a spare engine for both bikes, all the tools, and lots of spares. The only thing we don’t bring is a spare frame…Which is exactly what I needed in 2016 after a slight off approaching Governors Dip."
SB: What machines are you running this year?
RR: "This year we're running the Triumph 675 in the Junior and Senior. In the Lightweight class we have a new and improved Ducati 650, 4 valve water-cooled instead of 2 valve air-cooled."
SB: You’ve had some success this year already. Do you feel as if you, and the bike, are on track for success August, so to speak?
RR: "Yeah, we’ve done well so far in the South Australian titles. I think we should be just about ready. As mentioned before, we have to send our bikes to the other side of the world, so really, we have to have everything sorted and ready by July. I've got a pretty good program set up at the gym that should have me fitter than ever before come August."
SB: What ambitions do you have as you make the return to the mythical Isle of Man and the MGP?
RR: "To avoid lampposts and get on the podium! I’d like to better my lap times, have some wicked fun doing so, and stay on the bloody bike!"
We wish Royce the best of luck this year as he continues his remarkable comeback to the sport.
Oh, and Royce has had a mullet too. The signs are looking good...