Amazing Pace

Watching Troy Bayliss run with the big dogs at Monza in 2000.

Amazing Pace

Hard to believe it was a decade ago when I was in Italy at the famed Monza circuit watching World Superbike newbie Troy Bayliss (shown above on his "retirement ride," the 2008 championship-winning Ducati 1098R Superbike) suddenly run with the big dogs. The Australian had been signed up to ride for the Vance & Hines Ducati team in the AMA series that year, but WSB Ducati factory rider Carl Fogarty had crashed and injured his arm severely earlier in the season, so Bayliss was brought up.

The Australian had a go at Sugo, Japan, but was twice taken out on the start, by the same rider! Bad luck, for sure. In Italy, nobody really expected him to contend, what with being on a differently tuned bike and running on Michelin tires that he'd never really raced with before (V&H was running Dunlop). But there he was, a revelation, consistently amazing on the brakes while running with the leaders in qualifying and both races. In fact, he even took the lead in race two with serious style, passing four of the best factory riders in the world while braking for one of the chicanes. It was amazing to see, the kind of riding that seems divinely inspired and surely the work of a two-wheeled god who is utterly unapproachable.

Turns out Troy's just a regular guy, one of the most down-to-earth dudes ever to cruise the paddock. I asked what he owed his braking advantage to and he simply said, "I reckon I just squeeze a bit harder, mate!" and sort of downplayed his performance, despite an impressive pair of fourth-place finishes that earned him a full-time spot on the factory squad for 2000.The rest, as they say, is history. Farewell, Troy, it was a pleasure watching you work. Especially that day at Monza.