Bayliss tests for Ducati WSBK team

Possible return of three-time champion rumored

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, May. 13, 2010
Retired World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss was back on the track, testing with his former Ducati Xerox team.

Bayliss, who won WSBK titles in 2001, 2006 and 2008 with Ducati, rode a Ducati Xerox 1198 development bike in a two-day test at the Mugello Circuit in Italy. Bayliss retired following his 2008 Championship but remains under contract with Ducati as an occasional test rider. The May 11-12 test was Bayliss’ first ride on a WSBK-spec motorcycle since winning his final two races at the 2008 season finale in Portimao, Portugal. Bayliss also tested the Ducati Desmosedici MotoGP bike in 2009.

Heavy rain created wet conditions on the first day of the test, and Bayliss recorded a top time of 2:05. The track was dry by the afternoon of the second day, and Bayliss tested new software to the 1198’s gear shifter and the team worked to refine the bike’s setup. Riding on race tires, Bayliss completed more than 60 laps with a top time of 1:51.9.

“The weather wasn’t on our side but we still got a lot of work done,” says Bayliss. “Actually I think riding first in the rain was a good way to work up and get back into it. The track finally came good today and we got about two and a half hours in the dry which was good. I really enjoyed myself and hope the feedback I have been giving the guys is useful.”

Troy Bayliss rides a Ducati 1198 Superbike at the Mugello Circuit.

Ducati Xerox riders Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio have struggled through the first five rounds of the 2010 WSBK season. Haga has one win, in the second race of the April 11 round in Valencia, Spain, and a third place finish in the Feb. 28 season opener in Australia’s Phillip Island circuit, while Fabrizio has two podium appearances, both coming in Australia. Haga currently sits sixth in the championship while Fabrizio is 11th. By contrast, Haga and Fabrizio were first and third respectively after the first five rounds in 2009, with five wins and 13 podium appearances between them.

Data from Bayliss’ test may help the team turn things around, but Ducati insists the two-day test was scheduled months in advance.

Bayliss’ test and the team’s struggles have helped fuel speculation about Bayliss’ return to competitive racing.  In an interview with SuperbikePlanet’s Dean Adams, Bayliss said he quit too early and is angry about being one title and seven wins short of Carl “Foggy” Fogarty’s record four championships and 59 wins.

Ernesto Marinelli, Ducati Xerox team manager, says the decision is ultimately Bayliss’.

“Hold on, this is an important decision that we will eventually leave up to Troy,” says Marinelli. “It’s clear that for him the door is always open.”

Unless Bayliss decides otherwise, his next ride on the factory Superbikes will be June 10-13 at the Misano Circuit in Italy, with Haga and Fabrizio.