Troy Bayliss interview: 'I don't have regrets, I did it the hard way'
Motorcycle racing legend Troy Bayliss finds it tough to watch other professional riders now he is not a part of the circus, and, as he bounds around Ducati’s new state-of-the-art showroom in Abu Dhabi, it is easy to see why.
The hair may have greyed a little since he called time on his career nearly four years ago, but the passion for high performance two-wheeled machines still burns bright.
The 43-year-old retains close links to the Italian team that made him famous, testing for them as well as working with the Ducati Ride Experience (DRE), a motorcycle training programme, but when it comes to race day Bayliss admits he is a terrible spectator.
“I don’t watch much anymore because it makes me angry and I want to get back on the bike again,” Bayliss told Sport360° at the opening of the new store in Mussafah.
“It’s a difficult one, I was doing testing and everything, but when I go to the races I don’t really enjoy that too much because I just feel like tearing the bike out of someone’s hands and having a go myself.”
Perhaps that desire to race refuses to be dimmed because the three-time World Superbike champion came to the sport so late. While many of motorsport’s biggest stars were identified in their teens and groomed for success, Bayliss was 26 before he got his big break in Australian Superbikes.
Indeed, he was the wrong side of 30 before he settled in World Superbikes, although once there he quickly found his feet and, in two spells either side of an ill-fated move to MotoGP, won titles in 2001, 2006 and 2008.
With his success in Superbikes, many would see his time in MotoGP as something of a failure given he was unable to build on the promise of a sixth-place finish in his first season; the Australian suffering 11 retirements in 27 races over the next two campaigns.
Bayliss doesn’t see it quite that way himself though, pointing to his winning return to the class at the 2006 Valencia Grand Prix, as an injury replacement for Sete Gibernau.
“I went to MotoGP in 2003 and we had difficult times, but most of my career was spent on a Superbike and that’s where I felt at home and that felt like my chair,” he explained. “But it was nice to go back to that last race in 2006 in Valencia and win the last race of the 1000cc GP.
“But no, I don’t have any regrets, I did it the hard way. I came from Australia to England and went to America and finally found myself in the World Superbike Championship.
“I always thought when I started racing that I was fast and that I could possibly make a job out of it so all the other stuff has been a bonus, like championships and things, it’s been a good job you know.”
But given his success elsewhere, what did he feel went wrong in MotoGP?
“I have to say the biggest thing was, I went there but I didn’t take the right people,” adds Bayliss. “I wanted to take my Superbike team, which was David Tardozzi, Ernesto Marinelli and Paolo Ciabatti and I couldn’t; so things just didn’t really happen.
“And then the final time that I rode the (MotoGP) bike in 2006 I took David, Ernesto and Paolo and had the old mechanic team and we won the first time.
“It was a strange situation and we didn’t really say anything much, we just walked away and that was it.
“I was proud, those guys were proud and I was just really happy for World Superbikes because there’s so much talk that MotoGP is this and World Superbikes is that, but it just proved that Superbikes are good and they can be competitive.”
Indeed, Bayliss has had several offers to come out of retirement since he walked away from professional racing while at the very top. The Australian won his last-ever race, from pole position, in Portimao in November 2008, to walk off into the sunset with his third World Superbike Championship.
It was not a decision he took lightly, but while he may still want to do nothing more than get back into his racing leathers, he accepts it was one he made at the right time.
“It’s hard!” Bayliss admits when asked if he has ever been tempted enough to return. “It’s becoming easier, the first two years were difficult but it wasn’t just about me, it was my wife and it was about our kids growing up in Monaco and getting them back to Australia at the right age.
“My oldest boy, Mitch, was 14 at the time and we just felt it was the correct time for him as well to be back in Australia to finish off his schooling.
“So there were a few factors and I had a long career, I was pretty successful.
“One of the important things was to stop and still have the body working.
“It was really difficult and I did nearly come back a couple of times, but I think if I did come back even though I did believe myself that I could win, if I didn’t, things wouldn’t be the same.”
Being able to quit as a world champion is something that is clearly very dear to Bayliss. Having given a considerable portion of his life, as well as the little finger on his right hand following a 2007 crash at Donnington, to motorcycle racing, he was determined not to fade away. It’s also why he continues his involvement with Ducati.
“I’ve been there since 1998 and if I’d walked away and maybe I hadn’t finished on top and stayed quiet, I would not still be,” he adds. “You can disappear like that. But to finish on top and then to continue to do work with Ducati, it keeps my name out there and well known to Ducati.
“So I think this sort of relationship can continue for a long time.
“I like coming here to Abu Dhabi and Dubai and, with everything that is going on here, eventually, I think we could end up with a DRE here.”
1992: Buys himself a Kawasaki ZXR 750 and starts his first road-racing events. Works his way up through the Australian 600 and Superbike championships, finishing second in the latter in 1997.
1998: Wins a ride in British Superbikes with the GSE Racing Ducati team, placing sixth in his first season before winning the title in his second.
2000: Races in the World Superbike Championship for the first time with Ducati Infostrada, again finishing sixth in his first full season.
2001: Six race victories give Bayliss his first World Superbike Championship, finishing 36 points clear of Colin Edwards in second.
2003: Heads to MotoGP alongside Edwards but another sixth-place finish in his first season is followed by two disappointing years.
2006: Wins second World Superbikes crown and returns to MotoGP to win the 2006 Valencia Grand Prix.
2008: Bows out of professional racing as World Superbike Champion for the third time, winning 10 rounds, including his last-ever race.