Ducati Team Manager Ernesto Marinelli (right) with Troy Bayliss (left) the last time he raced a World Superbike at Phillip Island in 2008. PHOTOGRAPHY BY GOLD & GOOSE
As soon as the knowledge came through that Davide Giugliano would not be able to ride his Aruba.it – Ducati Superbike at the Australian round, the not-quite-serious idea passed through the paddock that Troy Bayliss would make a one-off wildcard comeback. It turned out to be a reality that still has a dream-like quality about it—such is the legendary status of the three-time World Champion.
Always a reluctant retiree from World Superbike back in 2008, Bayliss has been linked with a full-on comeback in the past years, all of which came to nothing.
But less than a full day after Giugliano was ruled out of this round it had been confirmed that Bayliss was going to make a one-off comeback, rejoining his old technical chief and current Ducati Superbike manager Ernesto Marinelli along the way.
“Early yesterday it came up and he is the exception, the only one that we could not say no to,” Marinelli said of the astounding return of Bayliss to the World Superbike paddock. “We accepted the idea and unfortunately it looks like Davide will be out for a few more races. Because of the WSB rules we are obliged to have a substitute for as long as he is out, but I see this race at PI [Phillip Island] with Troy as a one shot event for him. I do not think he has any intention to come back. His PI ride it is something special to do, not for himself, but the public and the Phillip Island circuit. It works, and fits in just fine.”
Bayliss has been a regular rider of the race Panigale in one of his roles as Ducati advisor and ambassador, and he last rode the Panigale race bike last May, at Mugello in a test session.
The question for Marinelli – who has long said that if Bayliss ever came back he would be competitive – is how will Bayliss do this weekend?
“I have known Troy for long enough to know he will not be able to cruise around and not take it as seriously as if he was racing for the championship,” said Marinelli. “We need to start safely and it has been a while since he has been on the bike, so at the start at PI we need to take it easy. He knows the bike, he knows the track, so I am expecting that he will try for the best result he can and set the best times he can. One time he rode here in testing I am sure he did a 1:30.7 on a 999 some years ago. There has never been a time that he has never surprised me, so I am expecting him not to be in the second part of the field, but to be in the first part of the field, and then we see.”
Despite the disappointment felt in the team at the injury of regular rider Davide Giugliano, who will now be out for 90 days, Marinelli knows the return of World Superbike royalty Bayliss for this round is the only thing to turn the mood around in the official Ducati camp. “I think the guys in the team will have all the possibilities for him and the team will be ready to do the best possible,” Marinelli said.