News 30 Jan 2018

Bayliss begins high-profile comeback at Phillip Island test

DesmoSport Ducati team co-owner/rider on track in ASBK return.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Three-time Superbike world champion Troy Bayliss has officially commenced his full-time comeback at Phillip Island this morning, setting a competitive pace in the first Yamaha Motor Finance Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) test of the year.

Bayliss, 48, was seventh on the time-sheets following this morning’s opening session, settling into his newfound role as team co-owner/rider at DesmoSport Ducati a full decade since retiring as world champion at the end of 2008.

It’s a major bonus for the rejuvenated ASBK series to have a rider at the calibre of Bayliss on the grid, his 1m35.498s in set in 10 laps during session one today just over a second outside the lead pace of Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda Racing). Bayliss is working closely with team co-owner/manager Ben Henry and longtime Honda racing boss Paul Free – now confirmed as crew chief – in these early stages.

“You have to make a comeback,” Bayliss told this morning. “Sure, the wildcard a few years ago was different as it was a one-off thing. This year, of course, I have re-joined the ASBK season for the full year, which certainly is a lot different. Hell, you only live once! I love riding bikes. I’m here every weekend anyway with Oli [Bayliss] racing, so I thought I would do a bit of racing and he can tell me what to do.”

“Obviously we’re on the new Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition. The first session here at Phillip Island was my first proper hit-out on the new bike. I was a little bit nervous going out there, but it didn’t take me too long for the memory to set back into Phillip Island-mode. I believe I got going quite well and really enjoyed the first session, so I’m really looking forward to the rest of the two days and I believe we can make some good improvements from where we are right now.

And Bayliss isn’t here to make up the numbers, declaring he has every intention of competing at the front this season: “I want to be a front-runner – that is always the case. I certainly wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I couldn’t run at the front, so we’ll see how it goes.”

It’s been an eventful off-season for Bayliss so far, crashing heavily in a recent shakedown test at Wakefield Park in Goulburn and sustaining a knee-cap injury that disrupted his preparation during the mid-stages of January.