Australian GP 1997: Troy Bayliss announces himself on world stage

Legendary Moments Series

Troy Bayliss headshot from 2001 Superbikes

Australian motorsport legend Troy Bayliss can pinpoint the day his life changed forever.

The former spray painter from Taree in New South Wales had been making waves in the Australian Superbike Championship and was offered a wildcard spot in the 250cc event at the 1997 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Little was expected from Bayliss at Phillip Island in what was a severely underpowered Suzuki.

But the 28-year-old shocked the racing world, challenging for the lead in an eye-catching performance.

Bayliss looked set to come third and claim a stunning podium finish but was overtaken by three riders in the final stages, a reflection on the power of his bike and certainly not his skill.

The race was ultimately claimed by Ralf Waldmann, the German beating fellow Honda riders Max Biaggi and Olivier Jacque for race victory.

Biaggi’s second-place finish was enough to see him pip Waldmann for the World Championship by just two points in a thrilling conclusion to the season.

But many home fans remember the race more for Bayliss’ performance and what could have been, the third-placed Jacque finishing less than a second quicker than Bayliss in sixth.

“I thought that could be the start of it [my career],” Bayliss later said in an interview.

And so it proved. The phone rang hot.

“Many people were very interested,” he added.

“I did a good result for that weekend and a lot of people were very surprised.

“Then I got a call from GSE (Racing Ducati) in England and moved out family to England. That’s when my career really took off.”

Bayliss won the British Superbike Series in 1999, his second year in the country, and his swift rise was capped by a World Superbikes title in 2001.

Bayliss would return to MotoGP™ in 2003, at the Japanese Grand Prix, before he went back to Superbikes.

Additional world titles in 2006 and 2008 followed, Bayliss ending his Superbikes career with a superb 52 race wins.

And in 2006, Bayliss made history, becoming the first rider to win a race in both Superbikes and MotoGP™ in the same year.

Racing under a MotoGP™ wildcard for Ducati, Bayliss won the 2006 event in Valencia, a performance that summed up his greatness.

Bayliss deservedly sits in the Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame after an international career full of glory.

And it all kicked off on an October day at Phillip Island.

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