Troy Bayliss starts what looks like being his final World Superbike season in 2008 chasing a third world title on Ducati's brand new, 1200cc, 1098R.
Bayliss began riding motocross and dirt track in his hometown of Taree when he was six and that schooling in the hard knock world of Aussie off-road riding forged his uncompromising track style - Troy is a fighter who never gives less than everything.
Bayliss didn’t begin road racing until he was 23, making him a very late starter in a sport where most current riders have been on minibikes on tarmac tracks in their very early years.
But it is perhaps Troy’s time on loose dirt surfaces that give him his all-action style. No matter what the bike is doing underneath him, TB (as he is known) keeps the throttle open and lets the bike sort itself out.
After spending two years riding in the hotly contested Australian 600cc Championship where he finished second in 1995, Troy switched to the domestic Superbike series, and finished second overall in 1997. He then made a move to the UK and rode a Ducati to sixth in the British Superbike Championship, before winning the title in 1999.
This performance earned him a shot at World Superbikes and he finished sixth in his first global season before winning the series in 2001. But race fans remember his WSBK years most fondly for the head-to-head clashes with his great rival Colin Edwards in the 2002 season, where Troy lost out to Edwards by a mere 11 points after 26 races after some of the closest, hardest racing of recent years.
Bayliss then spearheaded Ducati’s MotoGP assault with Loris Capirossi and made a solid debut at Suzuka in 2003 scoring a fifth place. The next race at Welkom in South Africa showed the MotoGP regulars what a hard rider he is when he fought for the lead with World Champion Rossi, giving no ground and re-passing the Italian with a determination that astonished those who had never seen him in action before.
Troy eventually finished sixth overall in his debut year on an untried machine - with three podium finishes - and missed out on the Rookie of the Year title, to Nicky Hayden, by just two points.
With one MotoGP season under his belt, great things were expected of Troy for 2004, but the much-vaunted Bayliss/Ducati combination did not function as well as expected and tensions in the team ran high. Bayliss finished only 5 of the first 13 races as his on-the-edge style clashed with the new Desmosedici GP4 and it was soon clear that Ducati would not be renewing his contract for 2005 - with Marlboro favourite Carlos Checa controversially lined up as his replacement.
Camel Honda seized the moment to sign the no nonsense Aussie and, before the ink was dry on the contract, Bayliss again showed his talent with a rostrum finish on his final race for Ducati Marlboro at Valencia, Spain.
That looked like being Troy's last MotoGP podium since - despite some initially promising pre-season testing performances - the Australian ultimately struggled to find a set-up for the RC211V that suited his riding style. A sixth at round one would be repeated at round eight, the US GP, but Bayliss believed he had found a set-up breakthrough during testing after the Czech Republic Grand Prix (round 10 of 16)...
Unfortunately Troy would never get the chance to ride an RCV again after badly breaking his wrist during a motocross accident shortly afterwards - an injury that would rule him out for the rest of the season.
With a top MotoGP ride unlikely for 2006, Bayliss accepted Ducati's offer of a return to their factory World Superbike team - to try and reclaim the crown lost to Alstare Suzuki's Troy Corser - and was soon back at the top of the testing timesheets.
However, it was Corser that took the initial championship advantage with Bayliss forced to wait until the fourth race of the season - the second race of his home Phillip Island event - to take his first victory of the year. Thereafter he was simply unstoppable, winning eight races in a row to open up a huge points lead as the second half of the year began. A fall at Misano ended his win streak, and two non-scores produced some unexpected drama, but ‘Baylisstic’ was still able to claim four more victories before the season was over and lift the WSBK riders’ crown in front of Ducati’s home fans at the penultimate Imola round.
But an unforgettable season had one last, brilliant, twist when the awesome Aussie was called up by the Ducati Marlboro Team to replace the injured Sete Gibernau in the season ending Valencian motorcycle grand prix. Bayliss kept a low profile prior to the event, but then outqualified team-mate Capirossi to start second on the grid (behind Valentino Rossi) - then went on to dominate the race for a sensational first (and last) MotoGP victory!
Turning his attention back to WSBK, Bayliss was unsurprisingly tipped to be the man to beat again in 2007, but his 999 - now in its final season of racing and almost unchanged from the year before - was struggling against the performance of the powerful four-cylinders.
Nevertheless, Bayliss bounced back from a poor opening round to record 1-2 race finishes in front of his home fans at Phillip Island, but then suffered a nasty accident while leading race one at Donington Park - leaving him with an amputated little finger and a very painful 'groin injury'.
A podium on his return at Valencia proved Troy's undisputed toughness and he went on to record his second win of the season by edging out title leader James Toseland for victory during a brilliant race two battle at Assen (round five).
Hopes of a sensational championship comeback were fuelled further by three wins in a row during the mid-season, but Brno and Brands Hatch (rounds nine and ten) saw that dream unfold as Bayliss fell in two of those four races and was only sixth and seventh in those he did finish.
But that didn’t stop Bayliss giving his usual 110% and Troy went on to claim the 999's final WSBK win in front of Ducati's home fans at Vallelunga (round 12 of 13) before finishing the season with 2-5 results at Magny Cours.
Although only fourth in the points, Bayliss still won seven of the 25 races, took 13 podiums, six poles and four fastest race laps.
Troy will be armed with the brand new 1098R for the 2008 WSBK season.
1992: 250cc Australian Sport Production Championship - Kawasaki.
1993: 600cc Australian Championship - Kawasaki.
1994: 6th 600c Australian Championship – Kawasaki.
1995: 2nd 600c Australian Championship – Kawasaki.
1996: 3rd Australian Superbike Championship - Kawasaki.
1997: 2nd Australian Superbike Championship – Suzuki.
1998: 6th British Superbike Championship – Ducati.
1999: British Superbike Champion – Ducati.
2000: 6th World Superbike Championship - Ducati.
2001: World Superbike Champion - Ducati.
2002: 2nd World Superbike Championship - Ducati.
2003: 6th MotoGP World Championship - Ducati.
2004: 14th MotoGP World Championship - Ducati.
2005: 15th MotoGP World Championship - Honda.
2006: World Superbike Champion - Ducati. Wins Valencian Grand Prix for Ducati.
2007: 4th World Superbike Championship - Ducati.