Phillip Island will be the scene of his racing comeback and Aussie road racing great Troy Bayliss from Taree got down to testing at the venue this week in readiness for the Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) kick off at the 2018 World Superbike season opener from February 23-25.
Aged 48, the three-time WorldSBK champion has come out of retirement to compete in the 2018 ASBK championship on a Desmosport Ducati – the brand that brought him most of his success on the international stage, which also included a MotoGP win in 2006.
ASBK will be the major support class at the WorldSBK opener, with Bayliss to battle it out against reigning and past national champions including Josh Waters, Wayne Maxwell, Troy Herfoss, Glenn Allerton and Bryan Staring.
Taree-bred but now based on the Gold Coast with his family, Bayliss last competed in the ASBK in 1997, finishing in second position before heading overseas to race world supers and MotoGP. He retired from WorldSBK at the end of 2008 after a total of 52 wins and three titles (2001, 2006, 2008) but returned for a two-round return cameo in 2015 to replace an injured rider.
Interviewed by long-time racing compatriot, the other Aussie Troy – Troy Corser – at the island, Bayliss said his competitive instincts still burn brightly.
“I want to be fast enough to be up the front in 2018 and anything else after that will be a bonus,” said Bayliss to Corser.
“There could be times when I feel really good on the bike and take a podium, but I want to see the bike up the front – that’s the main thing.”
Bayliss will be joined on the ASBK trail in 2018 by his 14-year-old son Oli, who will continue his promising road racing career in the Supersport 300 ranks. And now the tide has turned somewhat: it’s a chance for Oli to finally critique his dad’s form.
“Normally Oli says to me: ‘Dad you need to tuck in more, hang off it more, you look like an old fart’.
Bayliss also knows that he has to be in prime condition to take on the young bucks of ASBK, which has made for a “hard Christmas”.
“I’ve dropped down about six kilos and been living like a monk. Beers are gone. Yoga starts as soon as I go home. I’ve got to free up my hips and get a bit looser but I’m doing everything to try and make myself fit to ride these things.”
Bayliss has been testing at Phillip Island alongside his 2018 ASBK adversaries, and after eight sessions he ended up 10th overall on the Desmosport Ducati with a 1m33.950 s time, 1.2 seconds behind the pace-setting Glenn Allerton on the BMW SRR (1m32.728s).
“Initially, after 10 years away, everything felt like it was in fast motion,” Bayliss said. “Then I looked at the times and said: ‘Wow, I’ve got a way to go here’.
“But I started to make progress and felt a lot more at home on the bike.”