The 2008 motorcycle road racing year ended with a huge bang at the brand-new Portimao circuit in Portugal November 2. New World Superbike champion Troy Bayliss of Australia — with an amazing career record of three world titles, 52 race wins, 94 podiums and 26 poles — destroyed the opposition at the Portimao track, taking the pole position, lap record, and both race wins.
Good trick in that he had announced his retirement earlier this season and might have been expected to take it easy after already securing the world title at the last race in Magny Cours in France,
Bayliss simply annihilated the oppostion in this instantly popular new track, twice clearing off from the competition and motoring to a double victory, never easy at the best of times. Bayliss said, "This was the perfect end to my racing career, to finish with pole and a double win, an absolute fantastic result.
"I’ve been doing this for many years and it was a long way to come but I got here, and now I’m at the end of my career. I have a great team behind me and I thank all of them and the sponsors because you can’t do this without those guys. My career’s come to an end; I’ve won the championship and finished my career in one piece so it’s incredible really."
Behind the three-time champion, who insists he’s going to cold-turkey racing and go back to Australia to raise his two daughters in a more normal lifestyle (competitor Ruben Xaus laughs out loud at the idea), the season finished with fellow Aussie Troy Corser on the Yamaha Motor Italia R1 second, Corser’s team-mate Noriyuki Haga third (Haga is replacing Bayliss on the factory Yamaha in 2009), Spaniard Carlos Checa next on the HannSpree Ten Kate Honda, and German Max Neukirchner on the Team Alstare Suzuki fifth.
Rider changes aplenty are coming for 2009, starting with Bayliss leaving and Haga (who has previous Ducati experience on a two-year sojourn in British Superbike) taking his place. The top-ranked Ducati Sterilgarda Go-Eleven satellite Ducati team is losing both its riders, with Ialian hero Max Biaggi leaving to join the new Aprilia team (where he’ll be joined by Moto GP exile Shinya Nakano) and Spaniard Ruben Xaus going to the new BMW team.
The Yamaha factory entry, run out of the Italian importer, is also losing both its riders. Haga, as noted above, is going to the factory Ducati team, and Corser is jumping ship to accompany Xaus at the new BMW team. Yamaha Motor Italia has hired three-time AMA champ Ben Spies and top British superbike ace Tom Sykes to replace the two veterans.
Farther down the grid, a number of rides are in jeopardy, but the song hasn’t ended in the WSB musical chairs ride by any stretch of the imagination, and more announcements will no doubt be forthcoming shortly.