After three world titles, a seven-year retirement, and a second life playing with flat-track racing in his native Australia (and also making the occasional appearance on the dirt with a certain Marc Marquez), you’d think cheerful 45-year-old road racing genius Troy Bayliss would have had enough of the grind of top-level World Superbike racing.
You’d be wrong.
Next weekend will be the 25th year of world superbikes racing at the fabulous Australian Philip Island circuit, and long-time Ducati rider and employee Bayliss had already notified Ducati he’d love to do a wild-card ride at his home track. His chance came when factory rider Davide Guigliano high-sided in the last test session before the race weekend, fracturing two vertebrae and putting him out of the races (he’s expected to make a full recovery but will miss the first two events on the calendar).
Ducati originally announced they’d just run the one remaining bike for Chaz Davies, but on being approached by Bayliss again, announced that they’d decided to let him ride.
Bayliss said, “I want to start by saying that I really feel for Davide and that it’s a real shame for his season to be starting in this way. The desire to be able to return to the track and see the home crowd and the Ducatisti has always been strong ever since I last raced, and then also Phillip Island, one of my favourite tracks, is celebrating its 25th anniversary of World Superbikes.
“This gave me the idea to compete as a wild-card and work with the Ducati superbike technicians once again. I know it’s going to be a very difficult weekend, also because it’s a while since I’ve ridden the superbike, but I do know the track well and so hope to get back into it after a few laps. I’ll try to enjoy myself and will of course be doing my best to score a good result and put on a good show for the public.”
While he hasn’t raced on pavement for years, it’s unwise to think Bayliss won’t be a factor on the weekend. He was one of the development team for the Panigale superbike after he stopped racing, he’s won races on four of Ducati’s superbike variations – the 996, the 998, the 999, and the 1098 – winning titles on the 998, 999, and 1098, and his record at Phillip Island has seen him score six of his career 52 race wins there.
He also dropped into the last Moto GP race in 2006 at Valencia after a season of World Superbikes and won – not too shabby a trick, that.