A great many motorcycle racing fans had reason to smile back in the mirror as they brushed their teeth this morning. Ducati announced today that three-time WSBK champion and Daytona Superbike pole-sitter Troy Bayliss will race this weekend at Phillip Island. Fan favorite and much admired Bayliss (45) will replace Ducati’s Davide Giugliano who injured his spine in a Monday crash at Phillip Island.
Bayliss hasn’t raced World Superbike since the final round of the 2008 season, which saw him score double wins at Portimao, capping off his third WSBK title.
Since his final laps in 2008, Bayliss has struggled with retirement from racing. He, himself, even before he retired, said that he was addicted to the adrenaline of 200 mph and top level competition. When Ducati signed him to a test and personal services contract after he retired, Bayliss said he signed the deal, which allowed him to ride MotoGP and Superbikes at test sessions, as a way to “stick the needle in my arm again.”
Bayliss said he wanted to return to WSBK in 2010 but it’s known that Ducati talked him out of a comeback.
While Bayliss hasn’t raced WSBK since 2008, he has still had a foot in racing–predominantly dirt track–since he left the world championship. He has his own “Troy Bayliss Classic” in Australia and he has tested and ridden with several American dirt trackers. He was one of the faster riders at the Super Prestigio event in Barcelona last year, where he raced with Jared Mees, Marc Marquez and others.
A 45 year old racer–six and a half years after his last world championship race–this seems like fairy tale level stuff. Certainly his chances are bolstered by some degree of familiarity: Bayliss is racing at Phillip Island, his home circuit, and the Ducati team is still run by Troy’s old crewchief, Ernesto Marinelli, and the bike is, after all, a Ducati.
It goes without saying that fairy tales are a common thread in Troy Bayliss’ Superman cape. He’s the too old rider who stared longingly at one of those old “Lost in Space” Robot arm’d ZX7s in a dealership window, and borrowed the money to buy it and race it, going on to win his first race at age 26. Somehow he parlayed that into the British Superbike championship, the pole for the Daytona 200 and World Superbike wins and the title. And then, just as you thought his career was leveling off, Bayliss astounded the world by winning a MotoGP race as a wild card, and the WSBK title twice more before bowing to personal pressure and retiring.
Phillip Island fairy tale? Listen: Troy Bayliss would be the first to tell you that nearly his whole damn life has been a fairy tale. His. Whole. Damn. Life.