Troy Bayliss on the Ducati Infostrada-Michelin comes to South Africa fresh from a spectacular run of four consecutive wins. The Australian won both his home races at Phillip Island two weeks ago. A fortnight before that, he'd also won the first two races of the season at the Valencia opener on March 10th.

Bayliss leads the championship with an impressive points tally of 100. Bayliss won the British Superbike championship on a GSE Racing Ducati in 1999 and then went on to score pole position at the Daytona 200 in 2000, this time riding a Vance & Hines Ducati. Bayliss was then given the tall order of stepping into Carl Fogarty's shoes after the four times World Superbike champion was injured. He hasn't looked back since. He won six times in 2001 and ended the season as World Superbike champion.

His start to the 2002 season shows that he's not about to let anyone take that number one plate from him without a fight. Bayliss has to be firm favourite for this week-end's Kyalami round, where he scored two fine second-place finishes last year.

Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) was runner-up twice in Australia and is second in the championship with 69 points. Edwards took a superb win at Kyalami last year and will almost certainly have something to say about letting Bayliss run away with it this Sunday. Edwards had also won both races at Kyalami in 2000.

Spaniard Ruben Xaus (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) is sixth in the championship with 43 points. He was third in both races at Phillip Island which meant both podiums were 100% Michelin. The rest of the field was quite a long way back in Australia.

In the first race, the fourth rider home was 21.1 seconds behind Bayliss. That gap dropped slightly to 18.9 seconds in the second leg but still remained sizeable, especially considering that the races were run in perfectly dry conditions.

Troy Bayliss was fast during the Kyalami winter tests. He set a best time of 1m41.0 as compared to Colin Edwards' 1m41.6 and Ruben Xaus' 1m42.3. Although these times are unofficial and the conditions this Sunday will naturally be different, they are encouraging for the Michelin men. On December 6th 2001, with Bayliss and Xaus testing in Valencia, Ben Bostrom lapped Kyalami in 1m42.1.

And for the Michelin runners there shouldn't be too many problems: "Kyalami doesn't cause too many problems for us," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's motorcycle competitions chief. "Grip level is good and the track is fairly even, plus the straights aren't too fast. Kyalami doesn't cause any problems for us."

Equally Bayliss expects another good day: "Last year Kyalami was not so bad for us, it was quite good. This year we tested at the end of January and compared to last year it was much better. I really like the circuit, it makes for some good racing."

Colin Edwards is looking forward to a rough ol' time: "It's a good track, I like Kyalami. I am always going good there and it kind of reminds me of back in the old days growing up. It's a bit rough, rougher than the normal tracks where we race at, but everybody gets to race the same track. And the old tracks where I used to race at when growing up were rough as hell. I like it."

And for Michelin Kyalami offers no specific challenge, unlike other circuits like Phillip Island for example. "At Kyalami tyres wear very evenly," explains Jean H?riss?, Michelin Superbike manager. "In January we tested extensively there and the tests were very good. We were able to develop our products well, for qualifying as well as for the race."

Michelin brings a total of 600 tyres (400 rears and 200 fronts), wet and dry, for this race. Sizes are 19/67-420 (16,5 inch) for rear slicks, rain tyres and intermediates. Front tyre sizes are 12/60-420 (16.5 inch) tyres.