Having ended his sparkling riding career on a high with his third World Superbike Championship crown in eight years, Troy Bayliss is adamant that he is not missing the adrenaline rush of competition - but that does not necessarily mean he will not be back one day.

Bayliss clinched the laurels with a rostrum finish in the penultimate meeting of the campaign at Magny-Cours in early October - one of 19 podiums from 28 outings in 2008 - and he went on to win the last three races of his long and hugely successful WSBK career, one that has yielded no fewer than 52 victories from 152 starts, or more than one in three.

"It was a great year and a great way to finish my career off," the Ducati star acknowledged, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio. "To finish on top like this is very special and I'm satisfied.

"With three world championships, the sport has been kind to me, and I've managed to like I say finish on top and also come out in one piece. It's quite a nice way to go out - not a lot of people get to do it like this."

That much is true, and as he admits that 'in the middle of packing up there's a lot of organising to do after being away from Australia for ten years', Bayliss can look forward to Christmas in the Maldives before 'starting life afresh in early January'.

There has been talk, of late, of a match-up with the record-breaking Valentino Rossi at Losail in Qatar in April [see separate story - click here], after the Aussie surprisingly beat the six-time MotoGP Champion to the prestigious Casca d'Oro Moto Sprint Rider of the Year award, an accolade normally reserved for Italians. Whilst admitting that a return is unlikely, at just 39 Bayliss is clearly adhering to a never-say-never approach for the time being.

"Who knows?" he mused. "We'll see how this year goes. After a lot of years of racing we'll move back to Oz, and I'm sure I'm going to settle in okay. The team have already had their first test in Kyalami in South Africa and I didn't seem to miss that so much, so I think I'm going to be okay with it, and I'd like to finish like this."

Should he not come back, Bayliss agreed that there is nonetheless plenty of talent on the 2009 WSBK starting grid to compensate for his absence, from his replacement Noriyuki Haga to exciting young guns such as Tom Sykes, Jonny Rea and Ben Spies and, of course, the return of Aprilia and arrival of BMW in the series.

"Nori has been a big rival over the years and he's very strong," the New South Wales native mused, "so I can see him doing very well. Even now though, with Aprilia coming back and BMW coming in, the championship is getting stronger and stronger, so I'm really looking forward to watching it next year and seeing lots of good racing.

"It's difficult to say, but I think out of the two of them Aprilia are the ones who are maybe going to surprise a few people. They've got two really strong riders with [Max] Biaggi and [Shinya] Nakano on-board, who are both of a similar stature and very good at setting up the bike, so it'll be interesting.

"On the other side, BMW have the money, they've got the technology and they've got the resources, so whilst it might take a little bit longer, I'm sure they're going to get there too.

"I also think Ben Spies is going to do really good. He's a big talent, as is Syksie. I did my apprenticeship in the UK as well, so I know that coming through that background always makes for a good rider. I think he's going to come on very well."

Bayliss was speaking during the annual Race of Champions end-of-season extravaganza held at London's Wembley Stadium, and though he was forced to concede defeat in his opening round tie against new Formula 1 superstar and youngest-ever winner Sebastian Vettel, as the only rider in a fiercely competitive field, he knows he didn't do too badly overall.

"I loved it!" he enthused. "It's a great event and I felt privileged and honoured to be there, as the only bike rider amongst a lot of great names in car racing.

"Up against a name like Vettel it wasn't an easy task, but I got around okay and wasn't too far off the pace, so I was pretty happy and I could leave with my head held half-high. It's a great event, and it's all about having a good time. It's really good for the fans too - they can get close and come and see all the drivers and, well, one rider!

"I really enjoyed it. I came back in 2001 and now this year too, and events like this and Goodwood I'm really keen for."

by Russell Atkins

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