Interview: Ducati World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss
by soup army, transcription by susan haas
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
As announced last week, Superbikeplanet.com readers were given the opportunity to submit questions to newly-crowned World champion Troy Bayliss for an interview we conducted yesterday. There were over one thousand questions submitted to us from all over the world; and these were some of the best. Thanks to all who participated.
Three-time world champion Troy Bayliss will be riding off into the sunset after the final round in ’08. Soup readers were given the opportunity to ask Bayliss questions for this interview.
image: thanks, ducati corse heather
Q Don Proctor asks: What’s next? How are you going to spend your retirement, and where do you intend on living?
A I intend on going back and living on the Gold Coast. It’s going to be a new starting point for us, because originally we’re from about 800 km south of there, a place called Taree. But we’ve been away from there for a long time.
We thought Surfers Paradise was a good place to go back to, and if there’s any opportunities to have, there’d be more in that area for me, I think.
Q Opportunities for.
A I don’t know. Actually, it just. well, we’ve got the kids already booked into some really good schools there, which we feel is important for us, and we’re going to be living in a good spot. But right now, we just want to get back there and get settled in. As far as work goes, I’m going to be a little bit involved with Ducati, come back and do a few events next year with a few of the other people that I’ve been involved with.
Nothing big and special, but just basically wean myself out of this lifestyle that I’ve been in.
Q Several readers asked this: Which racetrack will you miss the most?
A I’ll miss them all. It’s just going to be a big hole. I am definitely going to miss so much this side of my life.
But one thing that I know is that I’ve already spoken with Tardozzi, Davide, and whenever we’ve got a test, if I ever want to come and ride the bike- not like I was a test rider, come and ride the bike when the bike’s properly ready, just to come and basically put the needle in my arm and get it out of my system.
Q Is there a corner that you will miss?
A There’s lots of corners that I’ll miss, but one corner that I will miss is-even though I haven’t ridden it for a couple years now-is a series of left-hand corners at Misano. Used to love them lefts that led onto the back straight. I used to be pretty fast around there, and just really enjoyed that set of corners. Another corner I’d miss will be the Ascari chicane at Monza.
Before you go onto the back straight, and before you go onto Parabolica. I really loved, love it through there. That’s, just-and also, I love the series, the lefts coming onto the straight at Phillip Island, as well.
That’s a nice place.
Q Soup reader Barry Glading asks: Did Ducati give you any of your title-winning bikes?
A I have them all. They’re not exactly all in my house at the moment, but I have them. I have one in my – I have one in my lounge room here, the 2001 model. I have the no. 21 Limited Edition that they did of that, the Infostrada one that you can register.
It’s at home covered in rugs. It’s never been started. It’s like brand new. I have the 999. I have the 1098 from this year. I have no. 12 of my Desmosedici. So I’ve got a nice little stable. And then all my shit that I’ve collected over the years.
I’ve given a lot of it away, but you still collect a bit. Like all my leathers and helmets. I keep at least one set per year.
Where it all began: Bayliss rode in America for two races on the powerhouse Vance Hines Ducati team in 2000. Then Foggy was injured and Troy was drafted into WSBK. The rest is history.
image: dean adams
Q Do you have the Superman leathers?
A Yeah, I’ve got some good stuff.
Q You’ve got a nice little Troy Bayliss museum in the making.
A A lot of oil paintings and stuff that people have done. Nice little insurance job one day. I’ll have to burn it all. [Laughing]
Q What are you going to do with all that stuff? Are you going to have a room in your house in Australia to keep it all?
A I’ll have to get a bigger house. But I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, to tell you the truth. I’ve got shit everywhere. I’m absolutely freaking out about going back to Oz.
Everything’s coming around fast now. It would’ve been f**in’ easier to do another year of racing. [Laughing] I think I’m going to have a year off and then come back in 2010.
Q I’m sure they’ll be happy to have you.
A Nori’s only got a year contract, so maybe I’ll come back.
Q We must have received 500 email messages from readers trying to convince you not to retire.
A It’s nonstop. People think that – a lot of people in Italy, especially, think that Kim wants me to stop, but it’s not just Kim. The whole plan was to stop quite a while ago, anyway.
It’s all gone to plan, and I’ve ended up in one piece.
Q From your perspective, what is the best race you’ve ever ridden, and why. this asked by reader Steve Mugridge.
A [pause] I don’t know. I’ve had a couple of good ones. It’s hard to pick one out.
If I just go back to just even my last race, not sure if that’s my best, but I could probably put it inside the top six. So it’s good to know that I’ve still got a good race left in me, this late in my career. And I’m planning to go out with a couple more.
Q Where does your Valencia MotoGP win rate?
A Yeah, that’s in the top five, I guess. Yeah. It was really good, but a boring race. Out the front, just racing my lap board.
I’ll take it, it was good, and I loved it, it was something that I wanted to do, but. it was just good. That was just like the icing on the cake for that year, really. So many people all said, asking me, at Ducati, Would you like to go and do the last race this year?
Try and do it again? But I said no. Every now and then it clicks over in my mind, but I think it’s better to leave the book closed like that, actually.
I started the program with the Desmosedici, with Loris, back at the end of 2002, and then, okay, I was lucky enough to win the last race with the 1000 cc. But I think it’s better left like that. (Listen to this in Mp3 format here [201k] )
Bayliss, a true working class hero, wrapped up his third WSBK title at Magny Cours.
image: thanks, ducati corse heather
Q We received a bunch of messages from fans asking if you’re going to do Valencia on the MotoGP bike this year, including one by Josh Coplan of Janesville, Wisconsin. So I’m glad you addressed that.
A Yeah, no. It’s too nice of a story. It’s got to be left how it was.
Pretty much like this year, especially if I can finish the last two races off very good, it would be incredible, but even if not, well, I did what I wanted to do, and that was the three championships on the different bikes.
Q In terms of a race that really stood out for you, it’s hard to beat your first race. Your first win, isn’t it?
A Yeah, back in Hockenheim in my first – I remember my first win in Australian Superbikes, and that was down at Calder Park, I think it was. I won there, and then I remember my first race win in England, which was at Oulton Park against Niall Mackenzie and Steve Hislop, with our bike really strong at the time, so that was a really good race for me. And then of course Hockenheim. You never forget the first ones.
I remember Hockenheim especially. I was really sick that weekend, and just couldn’t believe that we won in the end.
Q An amazing track, Hockenheim.
A Yeah. Absolutely. Like the first time there is pretty scary. When how it was back then, it was so fast, and the bike was unstable.
I couldn’t – when I first started in the practices there, I couldn’t hold the throttle on in the straight, because it just kept on getting into a big weave. So we had to play around with the suspension a bit just to even make the bike stable.
Q Next question. Reader FoS Travis Stidham says he’s owned all of your Suomy helmets and he’s your biggest fan in America. He just wants to know the answer to one question: Is AC/DC the best Australian band ever, or not?
A Ahhhhhh. I’m not – I listen to whatever’s playing on the radio. I listen to anything. But they’re good, ah?
I went back there this year. I went for a walk around the track to see if I could find any little bits left over. [Laughing] No, I still think – I should’ve just grabbed my finger that day, though. I really miss it. I should’ve at least put it in a jar.
Someone else now has got it from the hospital. I don’t know. They might’ve fed it to their dog.
Q Cecil Brown wonders: Your life and times appear to be something that Hollywood couldn’t make up. Have you ever considered writing a book?
A Yeah, a lot of – a few people have asked me, but you can’t – you can’t just – it’s not worth doing, because you can’t tell everything truthfully. Never.
Q What of the crash at Donington last year have a part in your thoughts of retirement? This question asked by Mike Oliver of Salem, Oregon.
A No, not at all. I went back there this year. I went for a walk around the track to see if I could find any little bits left over. [Laughing] No, I still think – I should’ve just grabbed my finger that day, though.
I really miss it. I should’ve at least put it in a jar. Someone else now has got it from the hospital. I don’t know. They might’ve fed it to their dog. I don’t know what they might’ve done with it.
Q Look for it on eBay?
Q Ben Fox, an MRA racer, asks: What makes you a champion? Do you think it’s genes, or having more desire, more heart? He read that Doug Chandler said that it’s genetic, and he wants to know if you agree.
What are your thoughts are on why champions are champions?
A It could have something to do with it, genetic. I don’t know, really. My dad wasn’t a motorcycle racer, but I knew how hard he worked at things to do. Honestly, it’s the way you’re brought up.
I’m pretty set in the ways that I do things, and sometimes – like people might think I listen to them, but it just goes in one ear and out the other, because I’ve got my way that I do it, and I know the way that I was brought up with my father, but especially the way how he made me do things, and that makes you who you are right from the beginning.
Q How did he make you do things?
A Just was hard on me, and especially when – we used to have fun riding and stuff, but he used to set little goals for me. When I was young, like ten, around ten, that age, when a new model motocross bike come out, he’d have the bike, he’d already bought it, but we’d go out and I’d still have the old one. He’d say, I’ve got this bike here, and there’s no use having it unless you’re faster on it.
I used to live out in the bush, so we used to do these races up and down – like just me, like a time trial, and I’d got to test a new bike and make sure I was faster on it before I’d get it, type of thing. But I used to cut the corners a little bit on that.
Bayliss has won titles on three different series of Ducati Superbikes, including the current 1098.
image: thanks, ducati corse heather
Q Don’t tell Dad.
A [Laughing] Don’t tell Dad. But yeah, I had some good times with my dad riding, but he, the way he brought me up, he made me hard like that.
Q Here’s a good question, sent in by reader Richard Busby: Your efforts at physical conditioning are well known, but do you have any programs or processes to prepare you for the mental side of racing?
A No, it comes naturally, the mental side of it, that’s for sure. These days I’m really relaxed, like a day or two before it. I’m not – a beer or a couple of beers doesn’t hurt you, doesn’t even notice on Saturday night. Anything to – you don’t want to be thinking all the time about racing, that’s for sure. But certainly my physical side is – we pay attention to that.
Even though I’m not – I could be a bit healthier sometimes, like even today I’ve done four hours’ training today. So it doesn’t matter what I do, like as far as what I eat or have something to drink, tomorrow I’ll be ready to race, not a problem.
Q Illinois resident Scotty Weener says that Steve Martin says you have no fear and feel no pain. He says he’s had moments of no fear and no pain, but unfortunately he was too drunk to ride when he did it. He wants to know what separates Aussies from the rest of the world.
A I have fear, and I do have a lot of pain. I still get as nervous sometimes now before the races as much as I have in my whole career. The pain is something that every racer has. You know you’re going to get a bit sometimes.
It’s just all the good stuff outweighs that side of it, so you manage to sort of brush it aside and continue on.
Q Chris Merklein of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin would like to ask you this: Out of the dozens of fierce competitors you’ve faced, who do you admire and respect the most?
A Not somebody in – not just somebody, because I respect all racers, because I know – all sports are similar, to get competitive and be at the front end of it, you have to be very dedicated. So I really respect a lot of racers.
Q Is there a rider that you’re going to be happy that you’ll never have to face again, for whatever reason?
A No. No. Not really.
Q Greg Cutler of New York City references your win in 2006 at Valencia: To what extent do you attribute your success in that race to having key members of your Superbike team with you, and do you think your MotoGP career could have been different had you had that crew with you?
A Yeah, I don’t want to get too political, but it really meant something to have the people there that I did, and that was Davide, Ernesto and Paolo Ciabatti. I’ve been comfortable with these guys. I first started working with Ernesto when I come to America back in 2000, and straightaway we clicked, and just really love working with him.
I wanted to take these guys in the first place, but it didn’t happen. I can’t – my time there was up and down, and we went back and did a really great job for that last race, but I don’t regret 2003, 2004, because that’s just how life is sometimes. I think it made me a stronger person in the end anyway.
But I think I could’ve done a better job with them guys there, over them years, definitely. But saying that, my – my life is based around Superbikes, and I honestly think that – you can go there, and you can do a good job, but I think the 125s and the guys coming through 250 have already experienced this life in the paddock. Like just say, look at Casey, for instance, coming through, and Lorenzo, all these young guys, they’re so happy and used to that paddock life.
It’s the same. When other guys come to Superbike, like Barros and, you can say a few different names, and it’s just a completely different way, and if you’re not used to that way, you’re going to struggle a little.
Q You didn’t start racing until you were in your 20s, but at what point did you realize that you were competitive enough to win titles and go World Championship? This question asked by Andy Garrett of Greenville, South Carolina.
A I think the first time I raced was in D grade down at Oran Park. I remember before that, I had my license only for a few months, and it was my first road bike I’d ever had, and I’d go for a ride up in the hills, and I’ve only had – I didn’t have any leathers or anything, just jeans and T-shirt or a jacket and something – and I’d just keep thinking to myself, The only thing from stopping my knee on the ground is like I’m worried about taking skin off it, because I only have a pair of jeans on.
So when I went down to the track, it was only a few corners before I got my knee down, and I just thought, Whoa, this is good. And I should be fast at this, anyway, because I’ve been riding bikes all my life. And straight after that, basically, I thought, We can make a living out of this. And from then on, it was we worked towards that goal, to making a living.
And then finally when we did, when we moved across to England, then we became more looking ahead at more better, bigger goals, like winning a championship and stuff like this.
Q Greg Li asks: Being an experienced rider, what do you think when people suggest that older riders like Colin Edwards, Checa, Gibernau, etc. should retire and make room for younger riders?
A Well, they’re not actually that old at the moment. So it’s different. But at my age, well, maybe it’s fair enough to say something like that. But even then, like especially if you’re doing a job, like I’ve been doing a pretty good job, so I think that I could stay on a little bit longer without being a pain in the ass, because I’m doing a good job.
But I don’t know. There’s age limits now in Superstock, and I don’t know if they should have this in Superbike or not. I think 40, you know. You shouldn’t be racing Superbikes anyhow when you’re any older than 40, really.
But it depends. If you want to race and you’re doing a good job, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Q FoS Rob vLS has a question about technique: How do you know, aside from crashing, when you are riding on the edge? What does the bike feel like? What does it do, and how do you gauge it?
Is it the knee, the lean angle, or what happens?
A Depends on the rider, I guess. Because everybody’s got their own limits. When – I’m talking about myself – I know that I’m getting close to the limit when I can’t relax on the bike when I’m trying to go fast, and you start getting tense, and if you start making little mistakes, especially if there’s somebody – basically the easiest way is if you’re trying to keep up with somebody and you can’t keep up with them, and you’re putting – you’re going over your limit to try and stay with them, that’s when you know you’re in trouble.
Q Ivan Alonso of Fremont, CA asks: As your career has evolved, you’ve seen yourself grow with confidence and skills. Was there one point in your career that you can point to as the catalyst to the Troy that we know today as a fearless and supremely fast rider? Was there one day.
A I think it was back in Hockenheim, or even a little bit before then, maybe. But I think even at Hockenheim when Colin put it on pole and I was second, I realized that Shit, I’m finally – I’m close to the front now, and maybe this is a turning point and I can be a front-runner.
Q Maybe this is going to work out. Cool.
A Maybe this is going to work out, because when I went to Japan it was a complete disaster, and then – then we went to Monza, actually, and I had a couple of good results there, a fourth and a fifth, I think it was, and I thought, Okay, this is good, I’ve managed to – that’s basically when signed the deal. It might’ve even been there. I did good, and did that really nice pass which everybody still keeps talking about.
But for me, for me it was at Hockenheim when I was just behind Colin and I thought, Wow. Okay, I’m here now.
Q Longtime ‘Soup reader Steve Sorich asks: Now that you’re about to wrap up your road racing career, are you going to pursue bicycle racing?
A I really love the bicycle. Like today, we had a really good hit out, and had a bit of a gym session as well. But even that, like – to do it professionally, it takes too much time anyway, and I’m at the wrong end of the time scale, that’s for sure.
You can still get going very good, but honestly, the young guys that are coming through now, they’re the next step. But more importantly for me, I want to stay fit. I want to be able to go for a coffee shop ride until I’m 60, 65.
Q LA resident and camera mechanic Nicolas Restrepo wonders: Do you think it would be more fun for Colin Edwards to go back to World Superbike rather than keep racing for top 5 or top 10 finishes in MotoGP?
A Yeah, it hasn’t actually happened for Colin. He so nearly won that race back in Assen a couple of years ago. I know Colin’s a great rider, but I’m sure he’d really love to have a win.
I think if he was back in Superbikes, he’d be at the front and be playing for the championship if he was in a good team, for sure.
Q Darren Winfield of Inver Grove Heights wants to know some riding technique: How do you balance the amount of weight you place on the inside footpeg and the outside footpeg in a corner? Does it change for different types of corners and cambers, etc.?
A Gee, I don’t know. That comes naturally. You don’t buy that down at the shop.
Q Eureka Nevada’s own Kyle Moore would like to ask you the following: Since you’ve raced with Haga for years, how do you think he’ll be able to go on the Ducati next year?
A I don’t know. Because every time when I’m behind him and when I’m watching him, our bikes do the same sort of thing, like they might let go at the same time. We’re always on nearly exactly the same tire.
I watch his bike, and to me, the last couple of months, him and Troy have been riding really good, but the Yamahas have really come along in leaps and bounds over the last few months. Their system that they’ve got – it’s Magneti Marelli, it’s the same as ours, but they’ve got some new bits and pieces to their suspension, and it just looks like it’s working unreal. It’ll be interesting to see.
He might have to change the bike a bit, because I know the way I have my bike, he wouldn’t ride it like that, because it’s much more physical to ride, and he tends to have a bit more of a direct sort of setting. It’ll be interesting.
Bayliss’ helmet says it all.
image: thanks, ducati corse heather
Q Cathy Steers of New Hampshire just visited Monte Carlo and bicycled on the roads around the town, and said it was the most dangerous and terrifying thing that she’s ever done. They want to know how you do it on a regular basis there.
A I love it. I normally have about three crashes a year, though. But I never wear a helmet, because it’s one place where you don’t have to, so I want to be free. But I ride here a few months ago with Lance Armstrong, and we went out and we done a few hours’ ride, but the day before that, he was riding with one of his friends, and he got hit by a car head-on.
Anyway, he hates riding in traffic, so the road where we went on this day, he took me out in the middle of nowhere, and it was like, I felt like we were in grizzly bear country. [Laughing] I understand why he’s such a hard nut and a tough nut, because where he rides, no one else would go there.
Q Do you have any regrets, when you think of your time in MotoGP? David Thompson of Oklahoma City wonders if you do.
A In MotoGP? Yes and no. You just roll with it. It was up and down, like I said before. I think that I actually didn’t show what my true potential was, but that’s racing.
You have good years, you have bad years.
Q Patrick Lawrence of Fort Washington, MD says that Mick Doohan has said that Kevin Schwantz was the fastest rider he had ever ridden against. Who was the fastest racer that you’ve ever competed against – someone who amazed you with their skills and abilities?
A [Pause] Well, I think it’s got to be Valentino, actually.
Yeah. Because he’s just [pause] just a – he’s just like another cut above everybody else. Casey, at this moment in time, is probably the fastest man in the world, on earth, like with a no fear type attitude.
But as far as like class goes and day in-day out, it’s Valentino Rossi.
Q So were there times in MotoGP when you were riding beside him, behind him, and he did some stuff and you just thought to yourself, Wow.
A Normally behind him. [Laughing] Probably one or two times I was in front of him.
Q But did you see him do some things, or –
A No, no, honestly, if you look at it from that side, honestly, like he’s just – that’s exactly what I said about him, but I think as far as people that I sort of diced with and spent more time with, I might have to say somebody different. I’d say even Loris Capirossi sometimes. Sometimes he was just, he used to ride over the edge on that bike, and the way that he used to ride it is just – was pretty amazing.
Q Paul DeWitt of Belen, New Mexico asks: What kind of recreational motorcycle riding will you do after you’re retired?
A I think I’ll do a bit of riding with my boys and girl, if Abby decides to do a bit of riding. Definitely we’re going to a little bit of motocross and stuff, because I still think that’s where you learn your basics, is with minibikes. And just have fun riding.
Q Darren Walker, among many others, wants to know whether there’s still time to tell the wife that you’re going to do this for just one more year?
Q What would be her response if you did?
A Uh. um. I don’t know. It wouldn’t be good. We’ve already planned everything as far as schools and things go, and it would be wrong for the family. Deep down, I know I could ride for a couple more years, but honestly, right now, it’s the right time now.
It’s going to hurt, stopping, but it’s the right time to stop.
Q When you and Ducati split and you rode for Honda, after being with Ducati for so many years, what was that period like? What was it like coming back? Craig Wix asks this.
A It was just pretty quiet. That year I was offered to ride, come back and ride in Superbike, which I probably should’ve done. But with a few races to go, that year was a pretty quiet year anyway, and then I smashed up my wrist really badly in Australia on a motocross bike.
So I missed, I think it was the last three races or something, but by then I’d already spoken with Davide and we’d decided that – Davide and Paolo really believed in me to come back and ride in the World Superbike team. They wanted me to go there, and we said, Okay, we’ll give it another go. I was honestly a bit worried, because I’d never ridden the 999 or been on Pirellis before. It was going to be a controlled tire, and it was going to be very close and fierce racing.
So I was a bit worried. And then I was worried about my wrist as well. But as soon as I hopped on the bike for the first time at Valencia, I felt reasonably comfortable, and I knew that I felt straight back at home, especially with the guys I had around me, and being back with Ernesto was just – shaping up to be a good year right from the start.
Q How much are you going to miss Ernesto and the other guys on your team?
A Yeah, I’m going to miss a lot of people there at Ducati, especially the group that we’ve got right now is a great group, and we really enjoy our time when we go away racing. They’re a really good bunch of professional guys, especially with Ernesto and Davide. Paolo’s moved on now, he’s involved with FG Sport. But it’s been a good time.
With Davide, it’s been since 2000, and he’s a good guy to have as a team manager, that’s for sure.
Q Essex UK, resident Colin Redmond wonders: How many miles a week do you bicycle for training?
A It depends, because I’m always – I seem to have a lot more work to do these days. But I guess, if I was home for seven days, I might do around 400 k.
Q Columbus, Ohio-man Jim Cherwinski asks a good question: What do you think of MotoGP going to a controlled tire?
A I could see it happening. It was always going to happen. But it’s true it’s strange, because MotoGP is like – actually, I think it’ll be good in the end.
It will stop a lot of whinging and bitching and teams changing halfway through the year. Like, He only won because he was on these, and blah, blah, blah. Okay, put them all on the same tire and let’s see.
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