Most people know the Aussie rider as the wildcard who took the last race of the 2006 Moto GP season by storm, and cruised to victory in a most-convincing fashion, over riders like Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden, and teammate Loris Capirossi.
There is however, a lot more than this sudden strike of talent, skill and luck, to Troy Bayliss.
Born March 30, 1969, in Taree, Australia, the talent for motorcycle racing that the young Troy exhibited was already obvious in his childhood. During his teens, his interest in motorcycle racing ebbed, to the point that he was about to choose a different path altogether. The love for the two-wheelers he had deep down inside, needed to surface eventually.
Racing on his own motorcycle, the Australian rider won the very first event he entered, and scored good results in his subsequent ones as well. Being driven on by these early achievements he entered the Australian Supersport Championship in 1995, and finished second on aggregate at the end of the season.
The next year he moved up to Superbikes and had two very consistant seasons in 1996 and 1997, finishing 3rd and 2nd respectively in the championship. He had a wildcard presence in the 1997 Australian GP, in the 250 cc class, on a seriously inferior motorcycle. Despite being a true underdog, he managed a respectable 6th position and almost finished third. (he was ultimately overtaken in the finish-line rundown, due to the less-than-satisfactory performance of the bike he was riding). The way he rode in that race though, was enough to catch the eye of certain executives, thus he got a British Superbike ride, a championship which he won the following year.
From 1999 onward, the name "Troy Bayliss" was to become a synonyme with Superbikes and Ducati.
He started out in the World Superbike Championship in 2000, as a replacement rider for Carl Fogarty, and despite a bumpy start, he managed to win the series in 2001, from American rider Colin Edwards, who would become Troy's fiercest rival in the years to come.
2002 started out as a good year for "Baylisstic", but paradoxically, it eventually became one big pile of mess for the Ducati rider. Not only was he knocked down once by his teammate, Ruben Xaus, but the frame change that Ducati implemented during the course of that season, made one wonder whether his team was working for, or against him. As a result of the botched teamwork, Colid Edwards stole the title that season.
2003 was the year the two arch rivals (Colin Edwards and Troy Baylisstic) would make the big move to the very top of the motorcycling world.
Being Ducati's factory rider, Bayliss soon became a front runner in the Moto GP as well, scoring many 3rd place finishes and finding himself in the lead, on a number of races.
As promising as the 2004 season started out it eventually turned into one of the most disappointing seasons for the Australian. Not only did he not manage to stay with the pack of front-runners he fell into disgrace with the team he had been working for, for the previous five years.
Riding for Camel Honda in 2005 wasn't the break he was looking for either. He suffered an accident which eventually prompted him to admit defeat and his inability to conquer Grand prix racing. Little did fans know, that it wasn't the last, the big-old, mean GP would see of the Australian rider.
2006 marked a return of the prodigal son in more ways than one. Baylisstic was reunited with his former Ducati team and – as a special return prize – he won the 2006 WSBK championship in a dominant fashion.
By this stage I suppose it is safe to say that 2006 was probably the Australian's most succesful year in motorcycle racing. After re-enstating his reign in the WSBK he got a chance to return the rude slap he had received from MotoGP, with interest. As factory rider Sete Gibernau crashed and injured himself in the penultimate race of the 2006 GP season, Ducati pulled its versatile secret weapon from the shelf and threw it into battle in the GP Bwin.com de la Comunitat Valenciana, the last race of the season, to great effect.
Baylisstic scored an easy win, leading all through the race, with teammate Loris Capirossi making it an all red 1-2.
Despite the GP success he scored, word has it, the Australian will stick to WSBK, and will attempt to help Ducati to another Championship title in 2007.
Article by Gavin O'Brien