DesmoSport Ducati’s Troy Bayliss has completed the first step of his Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) comeback at Phillip Island’s opening round of the 2018 season, finishing in a fine fourth-place overall.
After putting in an impressive performance during practice and then qualifying on the front row of the grid in third, the 48-year-old triple Superbike World Champion (WorldSBK) scored a stunning podium in P2 during Saturday’s opening 12-lap affair.
In Sunday’s second and third races the gritty Gold Coast resident rode to fifth and sixth-place results, again in the mix for the podium and gaining valuable seat time a decade after retiring from his glorious international career. Those results saw him claim fourth overall for the weekend, within nine points of the round winner.
“With not a lot of preparation time, first up we’re leaving here reasonably happy,” Bayliss reflected. “I’ve got an idea that we can run towards the front of the field and I know a few areas where we can improve the bike as well. We haven’t got the setting just right yet, but I’m really happy and we’ve had a good weekend.
“In the first race yesterday, I had so many bikes around me and it was really hectic because I hadn’t been in that situation for some time. So it did take a little while just to get used to that, but it was good to ride around the guys with so much experience here in Australia. I felt like I’d been here a long time – it was all under control and we’re excited!”
Bayliss was spectacular on the brand new 1299 Panigale R Final Edition all weekend, one of the major storylines of the ASBK and WorldSBK double-header at the 4.445km Victorian circuit, also setting the fastest lap of race three with a 1m33.138s lap-time. And, according to he and the factory-supported DesmoSport Ducati team that Bayliss is co-owner of, there’s more to come.
“It was really impressive how Troy went and he is just such a special rider – it’s a privilege for us to work with him,” DesmoSport Ducati co-owner and team manager Ben Henry commented. “I think we are going to move forward and do a good job for sure. It was our first time working together as a team with a lot of new elements and it all takes time.
“I was really happy with the results and, honestly, I feel like if we give him the bike he needs, he will win on it. Troy’s really patient, working to get the bike to where he wants it and we have plenty of riding coming up, so it’s all coming together and it’s been a great weekend. Thank you to everybody who has been behind us.”
The 2018 Australian Superbike Championship will now travel to Wakefield Park in New South Wales for round two between 16-18 March.