Former World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss is coming out of retirement to race this weekend’s 2015 season opener at Phillip Island. Bayliss, who retired in 2008, will ride the Panigale R for the Aruba.it Ducati factory team as an injury replacement for the ailing Davide Giugliano. Ducati had originally planned to run a single bike with factory rider Chaz Davies but Bayliss himself asked to ride for Giugliano in celebration of the 25th anniversary of WSBK at the Australian track.
“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,” says Bayliss. “This gave me the idea to compete as a wildcard 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.”
Baylisstic … It’s a nickname earned the hard way. Troy Bayliss was one of the most exciting racers ever to throw a leg over a Superbike. Likeable in the extreme and fast as hell ‘Baylisstic’ streaked onto the world stage after dragging an underpowered Suzuki to the front of the 250cc race at the 1997 Australian GP. A couple years later he was riding factory Ducati superbikes in the AMA. He moved into the WSBK as a replacement rider for Carl Fogarty at the fourth round of the 2000 championship season.
Like most true legends of the sport, Bayliss displayed a ton of heart when he rode, engaging in epic battles – Imola 2002 with Colin Edwards comes to mind – and earning legions of fans along the way. By the end of his career Bayliss had earned Superbike World Championships in 2001, 2006 and 2008.
One of Bayliss’ more memorable feats of brilliance came fresh off his second World Superbike championship when Ducati offered him a ‘Wild Card’ ride at the end of the 2006 MotoGP season. As an active MotoGP racer from 2003 – 2005, Bayliss had several good rides but had been unable to actually win a MotoGP for Ducati. When he showed up at Valencia for that one-off ride after winning the 2006 WSBK championship, something was different. Bayliss was immediately at the head of the field on his Ducati, qualifying second prior to leading the whole race on the way to a dominating victory. It was electrifying, something nobody suspected. Many felt that Bayliss had “washed-out” of MotoGP and stepped “down” when he returned to WSBK for the 2006 season. His triumphant one-off ride on that Ducati MotoGP bike set everyone straight and cemented his status as a legend of the sport.
Bayliss captured his third and final WSBK title in 2008 with 14 wins in the season, including a double at the last round of the season. A fitting send-off. It seems like only yesterday, but Bayliss has now been retired for over six years … Until now.