Hugely popular MotoGP king Valentino Rossi may have retained his crown in Malaysia last Sunday, but there's no need to guess who'll be the crowd favourite at Phillip Island this weekend.

Home-grown hero Troy Bayliss and the ever-popular Italian champion are sure to be two of the top draws when the world's fastest bike racers compete on one of its most exciting circuits, in an event Ducati rider Bayliss has been waiting all season for.

The former World Superbike champion currently sits fifth in the championship standings - the top-placed rookie - having established a reputation for quick and aggressive riding in the world's premier two-wheeled championship. So far, Bayliss has scored three podium finishes, and there's every reason to believe he can climb the podium again on Sunday, for the Island holds some great memories for the Aussie. In 1997, his career took off with impressive rides in the Australian 250 GP and the Australian World Superbike round while, in last year's WSBK event, Bayliss scored a superb double victory.

"Phillip Island is a place I do well at," stated the self-styled 'Baylisstic', "I like the atmosphere and I like the track because I always like places that make for good racing. The thing that really works for a good lap time at the Island is getting the section through Hayshed, up through Lukey Heights and onto the main straight flowing."

"Phillip Island is a real rider's track, where a talented rider can make up for a lack of horsepower because the layout is so flowing," added Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions, "Many modern tracks are stop-and-go in character, with lots of braking and acceleration, but Phillip Island is a go-go-go track, it's all about maintaining momentum."

Bayliss also knows that the Island's high-speed curves are a real challenge for riders, engineers and tyre technicians alike.

"It's pretty well known to be hard on tyres," he said, "There are so many fast lefts where you're hard on the gas, so the tyre generates so much heat during a lap, then you've got the really fast double last left-hander.

"But Michelin are pretty clever, they've overcome the horsepower problem of the MotoGP bikes. Obviously, the rider has to keep the tyres in mind, but if you choose the right tyre and you've got a good set up, you can ride the bike as hard as you want."

First qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix takes place this Friday.

 

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