The hardest man on the grid

Interview: Laura Bradley, Pics: Simon Bradley

Editor's note We caught up with Troy Bayliss at Monza, just three races after his huge and extremely painful crash at Donington. At this point (Saturday) he's running fourth in the championship, some sixty eight points behind the leader James Toseland. For the record, as well as being incredibly, almost unreasonably tough, Bayliss is also one of the nicest guys you could meet. Having first met him when he was a rookie in British Superbikes, all I can say is that the fame and success don't appear to have gone to his head at all. Far from it, in fact. Anyway, on with the interview...

Troy Bayliss. One of the nicest blokes you'll ever meet, And a stough as they come.How are you?

Not bad, yeah I’m ok…it’s been a difficult weekend so far, Monza’s a special place but it’s always really busy for us. I’ve had some success here in the past but it ’s gonna be so hard do duplicate that this weekend because everybody’s riding so good and all the bikes are so strong and so competitive. I think the race tomorrow is gonna be so hard and really dramatic.

Congratulations for the second win in Assen

Yeah, I needed this because after Donington it took a little while to come back. Valencia was a little bit sketchy and finally at Assen we did better. It’s nice to come back closer to the front.

Do you think there’s still a hope of beating Toseland?

Ah, well…Yeah. I’m as confident as possible. It’s certainly not going to be easy because he’s really on his game this year, he’s doing everything good…strong bike, strong team and he’s very confident in himself so he’s definitely going to be very hard to beat. I don’t know, I’ve been in this position before, sometimes you can get shaken and he’s been riding strong all weekend and today he didn’t put it together in Superpole and you never know, that could fluster him a bit. But tomorrow it’s just gonna be a bit of a train in the race and I’m gonna be on the front carriage!

You’ve done some great races with some great opponents, particularly Colin Edwards, do you see those races as something special or just plain old races?

Erm, every now and then you have some special times and Colin and myself had a couple of years of really hard racing and I see that now with James. It’s not just James, there’s Nori and Corser. There’s always somebody there to put in a really strong weekend so. Now it’s not just one but everybody who's so strong it’s even more difficult.

You’re on record for saying that MotoGP is for the younger people, but you’re still a young person, you’re as young as you feel?

You haven’t felt me!!! (laughing) I don’t feel that young. I’m happy here but honestly by best days are, um, I’m not really going to get better. Well I think I’m not gonna get better. All you can do is try to keep the form that you have and work hard and try and improve the motorcycle but right now we’re at the end of an era with the 999. We’re having to work so hard, I knew this year was going to be difficult and even my wife said to me ‘you know, this year is going to be so much harder, sometimes you’re gonna have to settle for something that's not what you wanna do’ and she said ‘ either that or you’re gonna try too hard and hurt yourself because that’s how hard it’s gonna be on this bike’ and that’s something I’ve done already…she said ‘you’re gonna have to learn how to relax’ but I can’t! I’m a racer and I’m gonna give it everything I’ve got even if, like today, we're there at the top speed, we know our bike is fast and aerodynamic, but we really need this acceleration and power. Right now every time I have to ride I have to ride like…you know it’s like having a gun to your head!

Did you ever consider riding on the Isle of Man at the TT races and how do you feel about those races?

I’d definitely ride that if I didn’t have a family! (Editor chips in) "I did the TT the year before I met my wife…(laughing from Troy) Troy: I think I did that many times when I first had my motorbike just on the street, I had some favourite roads in the mountains and was lucky to come home sometimes! Those days are behind, I don’t do that anymore and I just ride on the track and that’s it.

A few minutes before he met up with us, Bayliss was chucking his Ducati 999 around the track on Superpole. And doing it rather well, tooYou don’t ride on the road at all?

I have a scooter! That’s it!

From what I hear you have a boat as well!!

Well we live in Monaco and it’s a place well you know to live so close to the ocean you have to have a boat! Monaco’s a place where you do a bit of lunching and stuff in the summer so it’s pretty normal!

So how did it all start off?

Erm…bikes are in my blood I’ve been riding motorbikes since I was like…four! And then racing, I started racing when I was around ten, stopped when I was fourteen because, normal story, family didn’t have enough money and I just stopped. But then when I got my own job I was also doing some bicycle racing for the fitness and every morning when I rode past the shop I saw the bike in the window and I’m like “Cor!” So then I went and took a loan from the bank and bought this bike just to ride on the road. Then after about two months, like I said I was riding in the mountains and having some fun and I thought “oh-oh, I’m either going to kill myself or lose my license…” So then we went to the track for a club day and I started road racing.

What do you feel is your home track?

There’s a few special places, Phillip Island, everybody loves to ride in Phillip Island, it’s a beautiful place! Here is very special, Brands Hatch, Assen…there’s many special places but there’s a few that have a bit more atmosphere than the others! So Phillip Island…it’s at the top, one of my favourites!!

What’s your opinion of the new bike, do you really think it’s necessary?

Yeah, I do. The 999, I’m not sure how old it is now! I think it was 2003 when we started with the 999. It’s just gone past the use by date now and they make the new one and there’s no more 999! (ed: Ducati have replaced the 999 in the showrooms with the 1098) Erm, it’s just costing Ducati too much money to maintain it. We want the new bike because the whole point of Ducati is what you build in the factory you bring to the track and race. Right now Ducati have built this and we want to race it. A lot of people have had a few things to say about it…I don’t want to get too political but I think that they should listen before they start saying things because Ducati don’t want to come into the championship where the bike is too strong for everyone but it’s gonna be not as much money needed to spend on making it competitive. Anyway I think they should bring it in but if it doesn’t then there’s not much I can do about it. I’ll be finished after this year...

Do you think the respect for Ducati would go down if it was brought in because they’d need a bigger bike to get somewhere?

Erm, no because we only have two pistons, they’ve got four!

Did you get to test the new MotoGP bike?

No, the last GP bike I got to ride was in Valencia and maybe one day I’ll be at the track and have the opportunity to test it but I’m not honestly that interested in it. It’s not my style of bike. It’s like the 250 bike now and I’m happy to finish how I did in Valencia and that’s in my memory, it’s very special for me and I’m happy just to finish my time in Superbike, and after I finish I will go and enjoy my family!

Well it's only fair that you should see who does the interviewing...when it's not the editor, anyway.What do you want to do when you do finally hang up your leathers?

I don’t know. Every now and then I think about it. I don’t think I’d do anything to do with motorbikes, not at the race track, that’s for sure! The last thing I need is to be going around to races, that’s for sure! It would be very rare. For sure I’m going to be still involved with Ducati, come do a special few events like Monza or World Ducati Week because I have Ducati in my heart. I’ve ridden Ducati for a long time now so I’d never really leave Ducati and I’d certainly never go with another brand of motorcycle. That’s for sure! But I’m certainly not going to be involved like a team manager or something…!

You’re not going to do a Foggy? No, after my time I will just leave someone else to their moment but that’s another reason why I’m happy at Superbike and not in GP. Because I never got to spend time with my family and in Superbikes we only have two races outside of Europe, so it’s like an office job, except it’s on the weekends!!! I’m only away like four days, five days at the most! And there are a lot of times we bring the family to the track anyway so I really like this because I don’t think it’s good to have a wife and three kids and spend too much time away, I can’t spend weeks away it would kill me! 


Editor's note again. Bayliss went on to get two podiums after riding a storming couple of races. What a guy...

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