Hall of Fame inductee – Troy Bayliss | Columns | Gassit Garage
It is unlikely another reigning World Superbike champion will win a MotoGP race in the same season. Fame hasn’t changed Troy Bayliss, and the honest worker is a true Aussie legend – an example to all.
To Troy Bayliss, winning was like a work bonus. While he loved racing motorcycles, he competed on the world stage as a family man. Superbike racing was his job, his income depending on race results.
It’s 28 February 2008 at Phillip Island and Troy Bayliss is about to start another working week in the job with Ducati he’s held for 10 years.
Bayliss is carrying a workplace injury from pre-season testing – a broken collarbone that is slowly healing. But a qualifying crash adds another injury, this time requiring eight stitches in an elbow and extensive strapping.
Undaunted, he quietly applies himself to the task ahead. By the end of this week’s work, Bayliss will have completed a clean sweep of qualifying and the two races. Along the way he will have set the fastest Superbike lap ever at the Island during Superpole and the fastest race lap of the weekend. Over a combined race distance of nearly 200km (double that of a typical MotoGP race) Bayliss will show the true championship-winning potential of Ducati’s all-new 1098R Superbike.
That season he will go on to achieve another three double wins, including at the last round, where he also claims Superpole and sets the fastest lap in both races.
It was a year summed up by the number-21 Baylisstic supporter’s T-shirt worn that weekend. The words on the back read 1098, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 21, Blast-off.
And Bayliss did blast off, retiring as a full-time rider to return to Australia from Monaco because “it was time to put the kids through secondary school”.
You would expect a father racing to finance his family would become a gun for hire, a motorcycle racing mercenary, but Troy was never like that. Apart from one year in MotoGP on a Honda, he stuck with Ducati throughout his international career.
Last month in New Zealand, at the first of what will be many 30th anniversary celebrations of World Superbikes, Troy explained the long-term relationship with the Italian marque.
“Ducati’s been good to me, and I’ve been good to them,” he says. “We’re a good match.”
Bayliss is a bit bruised and battered from a monster crash in early January testing at Wakefield Park. Observers said it looked like his Panigale had been dropped from a helicopter.
“My bike rode over me,” he says, gingerly touching a red-raw neck. “And I’ve got some work to do on my hip. I’m feeling a bit like Frank Bruno (the 54-year-old British boxer also on the comeback trail).”
None of this seems to deter him. As a long-term Ducati ambassador, his work at the big Classic Festival at Pukekohe includes fast demonstration laps on a locally owned 996RS Superbike fitted with one of his old race engines.
It also involves a constant stream of fans wanting autographs and to share memories with one of Ducati’s favourite sons. Off-track commitments can be as exhausting as competing, but it’s all in a day’s work for Troy, although he starts to look a bit tired as nightfall approaches.
Troy is one of Ducati’s most loved racing heroes.
The former spray painter became a professional racer aged 27, when he was already a family man. He finished runner-up in the ASBK series in 1997, then stunned international racing with a wildcard ride in the 250cc Australian GP. He ran as high as third on an underpowered machine before being relegated to sixth on the run to the chequered flag.
This launched his career path to 52 World Superbike race wins, three championships and a MotoGP race victory. All achieved on Ducati machinery, this also earned him a special place in Italian motorcycling folklore.
At an age when most riders would be thinking of retiring, in 2006 Bayliss achieved the impossible. After clinching his second World Superbike title, Ducati gave him a MotoGP wildcard entry – and he won. This was the first time any rider had won a race in both world championships in the same year, let alone by a reigning champion.
In 2008 Troy won the World Superbike title again on the all-new Ducati 1098.
Troy has always been prepared to roll up his sleeves and get stuck into the task, recently taking on team ownership, the promotion of major motorcycle events in Australia and even riding again this year.
Read the full story in the current issue (Vol 67 No 18) on sale now