Troy Bayliss has announced this will be his last year of racing, and it appears that his competition are going to be more and more pleased about that call as the season goes on. Bayliss rocked the WSB world with his second double win of the season at the Assen circuit in the Netherlands last weekend, looking comfortably in control while doing so.
The only fly that may come in the ointment is the fact that WSB brass have reserved the right to play with the Ducati 1098’s air intake size and weight if the decision to allow the larger- displacement Duck to run with the 1,000 cc-limited fours proves overly favourable to the Italian marque. Ducati have certainly won a preponderence of races so far; honestly, though, it appears that Bayliss is the problem, rather than the bike. None of the other Ducati riders have approached his form, and if he does indeed leave after this year the playing field may be much more level in 2009.
The double win gives him and his Xerox Ducati a 178 to 108 point lead over second-place Carlos Checa on the Hanspree Ten Kate Honda (Checa having been drop-kicked out of Moto GP and grabbing James Toseland’s 2007 championship ride on the way by, while Toseland has moved up to make serious waves in his first Moto GP season).
Next up in line are Troy Corser on one of the Yamaha Motor Italia bikes at 89, Fonzi Nieto at 85 on one of the Team Alstare Suzukis, and ever-entertaining Rueben Xaus on the Sterilgarda Go Eleven satellite Ducati 1098 (delightfully well-ahead of his more famous team-mate Max Biaggi in eighth with 54, who is no doubt slowed by the wind resistance of the triple-extra-size helmet his ego requires).
In the first race, Bayliss finished ahead of Checa and Max Neukirchner. That was an unplayed scene of potential drama, as Checa made an incredibly ill-judged passing attempt on Neukirchner at the last event, resulting in them both crashing, Neukirchner losing his first win and breaking a collar-bone. Neukirchner was quoted as saying, "I was very angry after the incident but now everything is okay with Carlos."
Anyone expecting that to be code for "I’m going to knock that stupid Spaniard across the Belgian border first time I see him on track" was disappointed.
In the second race, Bayliss led flag to flag chased hard by Noriyuki Haga on the other Yamaha Motor Italia R1, Haga having been sidelined in the first race when he and Rueben Xaus went down together early on. Checa took third in another of his apparently patented ’08 races, a terrible start followed by a remarkable charge through the field.
Next event is May 11 at Monza in Italy, where Haga won twice last year.