The return of Troy Bayliss to Australian Superbike competition has certainly been a factor helping to raise the profile of Australia’s domestic Road Racing Championships to new levels.
Bayliss was never going to come back to racing as some sort of show pony to be paraded around and smile for the cameras. The 49-year-old has been training hard and the DesmoSport Ducati team have been doing everything they can to give him the tools to do the job.
The final piece of the puzzle though is always going to depend on the brain behind the handlebars, and they don’t come much more determined and competitive than TB.
While Bayliss has a British Superbike Championship and a trio of World Superbike Championships under his belt (the last of which came a decade ago), TB has no Australian Road Race Championship to his name.
Runner-up to Dean Thomas in Australian Supersport in 1995, Bayliss then moved up to Superbikes in 1996 where he finished third on a Kawasaki behind champion Peter Goddard (Suzuki), and second placed Marty Carggill (Kawasaki). Craggill won the first of his two Australian Superbike Championships in 1997 while Bayliss was the bridesmaid, this time on a Suzuki.
1998 saw Troy head off to start his stellar international career but 20 years later he is now back in Australia to try and wrap up some unfinished business.
But is is not all about that elusive ASBK Championship win for the Aussie road race legend. That would, of course, be the icing on the cake, but his involvement in ASBK is also, I think, a little altruistic. There is certainly an element of giving something back to the sport that has given him, well not given, but provided the contest that enabled him to become enormously successful, and secure a modest amount of wealth for his future.
I think it is fair to say that Bayliss is perhaps the most well loved of all of Australia’s motorcycling legends. His down to earth, almost tradie next door attitude is always endearing and disarming. But his familiarity with the punters hasn’t diminished his star status, it has only strengthened it.
Don’t let that affable charm fool you though, once that helmet goes on there is a single-minded and tenacious determination driving a will to win as big as any sportsman on the planet. The likes of TB are not like you and me, the fire in the belly to win is what fuels their soul, it makes them what they are.
It is a fire that can be very hard to put out once they hang up their leathers. In fact, many never successfully extinguish that self-fuelled inferno and it can lead some down unhealthy roads, and provoke some demons that they struggle to come back from.
Troy has always been well grounded by wife Kim and his children thus he had adjusted relatively well to life outside racing, but the fire was always still lurking there behind those penetrating blue eyes. But even that notwithstanding, the decision to come back to racing, while not all that far from his 50th birthday still shocked everyone, including some of his closest friends.
Being on the sidelines in recent years as youngest son Oli embarks on a road racing career also no doubt played its part.
TB has been in the ASBK paddock now for the past few seasons twirling the spanners for Oli, just like any dad. They have shared plenty of smiles, and frustrations, but 99 per cent of the time it looks like they are having fun.
Oli’s laugh and smile is infectious and he has a camraderie with most of his competitors that is pleasing to witness.
Mum is also on hand more often than not and adds to the great family dynamic, keeping both her ‘boys’ in line sometimes with little more than a simple glance or raise of the eyebrows.
TB is a strong character, but I get the feeling that he more than met his match in Kim. It certainly can’t have been easy treading the ups and downs of racing with Troy while raising their young family but they obviously did it very well indeed. You only need see the way young Oli will hug his mum at random opportunities to see that.
Thus while Troy is certainly the star helping to power the media penetration and ASBK fan base, for many of us that have spent a couple of decades in the ASBK paddock it’s also having the Bayliss family in our midst that makes being a part of it that little bit better.
TB has been up front fighting for wins this season but is yet to stand on the top step of the podium. A fall at the recent South Australian round was costly but Bayliss is still a strong fifth place in the ASBK Championship Standings.
A recent test at Morgan Park has the DesmoSport Ducati team looking forward to Darwin. Troy is feeling confident and ready for battle when ASBK hits Darwin’s Hidden Valley this weekend.
Will this be the scene of his breakthrough…?
2018 ASBK Calendar
Round 4- Hidden Valley Raceway, Darwin NT June 29 – 1 July
Round 5- Morgan Park Raceway, Warwick QLD August 17 – 19
Round 6- Winton Motor Raceway, Benalla, VIC September 7 – 9
Round 7- Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, VIC October 12 – 14
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