Bayliss looks V8 car star
Pink’s fast but Troy’s the boy, writeMARKHINCHLIFFE and PAUL GOVER
PINK, Troy Bayliss, Layne Beachley and Carey Hart have all fallen under the V8 Supercar spell. Each has cut loose in a V8 Aussie muscle car in the past week and at least one plans a full-time track attack in a Supercar before the year is out.
But is it the rock star, the champion surfer, the world superbike champion or the freestyle motocross ace? The answer should be obvious: it’s Bayliss. He might have retired from world superbike action on his rampaging Ducati, but there is no way he is ready for ‘‘real’’ retirement.
Bayliss has bought a house on the Gold Coast with enough space for his family, toys and milestone machines, but he is out cycling most days — he could have been a professional racer — and has been looking for a V8 Supercar opportunity for more than a year.
There is even a chance Bayliss could eventually team with Australia’s other twowheeled superstar of recent years, motocross world champion Chad Reed. But that will be once Reed has joined Bayliss in so-called retirement and returned home.
Bayliss had his first serious hit-out in a V8 Supercar with TeamVodafone in a stunning test drive in Craig Lowndes’ old race car at Queensland Raceway. He eventually cut a competitive lap time, but also showed his signature commitment to engineering and tuning himself through the day.
‘‘He could easily race in the top five of the development series or in the final 10 of the main series,’’ team chief engineer Ludo Lacroix says of Bayliss’s laps.
In sharp contrast, Layne Beachley had a fun run in the red-and-silver racer. Her highlight was a spin.
‘‘I had a complete Beachley says.
While the world champs hit Queensland Raceway in the championship-winning Falcon, the superstar couple — Pink and Hart — strapped into a Commodore at Holden’s safe driving centre on the Gold Coast.
It was only fun for the singer and the stunt rider, but Hart would also like more. He clearly enjoyed one-on-one track time with Russell Ingall of the Supercheap Auto team.
‘‘I had an absolute ball out there today and was amazed at how fast the car went — my favourite part was the braking,’’ Pink says.
But it’s Bayliss who has the potential for a career switch. The three-time world superbike champion lapped in 1min 12.6sec, close to the
explosion,’’ benchmark 1:11.8 set by Lowndes as he warmed the car for his guest star.
‘‘I’ve always been a big V8 fan. First time out was fun. The rest of the day has been like work,’’ Bayliss says.
After each timed session, Bayliss went straight to Lowndes’ race engineer Jeromy Moore to study the computer telemetry and get advice on how to improve his times.
Late in the day he found the extra speed, tripping the clock at a very respectable 1:11.85. To put that into context, the race lap record is 1:11.0033, set by Garth Tander in 1999.
Bayliss says he is really serious about breaking into V8 Supercars.
‘‘I want to leave a good impression; I don’t want to just circulate,’’ he says. ‘‘I’ve ticked all the boxes so far and I’ve improved. I feel like I’m at home.’’
Frenchman Lacroix says motorcycle road racers understand correct racing lines and have the right feel to race cars.
Valentino Rossi set competitive times during test runs with the Ferrari Formula One team, and John Surtees won a grand prix world title with Ferrari in the 1960s after a string of GP championships on two wheels.
‘‘They also don’t like to come off because it hurts, so they don’t drive silly,’’ he says.
‘‘He now just needs to get his head around four wheels and a locked diff.’’
Bayliss was invited to test by TeamVodafone principal Roland Dane, whose exotic bikes include a Ducati 1098R and a privately imported Ducati Desmosedici MotoGP race replica. There is every chance he will provide the hardware when Bayliss is ready to race. But Dane says Bayliss is not fully appreciated in his home country.
‘‘We don’t realise what a superstar he is,’’ Dane says. ‘‘In the UK they know him as a superstar. They respect Casey Stoner, but they respect and like Troy. For me he became a god when he won the last 990cc GP race in Valencia in 2006.
‘‘He just needs more seat time and race time. It would also be nice to see him make an enduro round.’’
Meanwhile, Beachley grappled with the 450kW racer despite racing a Mini in the Australian Grand Prix celebrity race. She ground some gears, missed a turn and spun out.
‘‘Bloody chick drivers. Do I need to go back and get the gearbox? I think it’s over at turn four,’’ she jokes with the pit crew.
‘‘When you are surfing in shark-infested waters you know they’re there, but here you have to deal with gravel pits, gearshifts and sharp corners.’’
At the Holden Performance Driving Centre in Norwell, Pink and Hart took turns driving in a Supercheap Auto race replica.
‘‘I was smooth, fast and picked some great lines,’’ Pink says.
‘‘I do most of the driving between us so it was good to take it to a track environment where it is totally different.’’
Hart turned up with his own fireproof race suit and was much more serious about his stint. He even impressed team manager Paul Morris with his first effort in a right-hand-drive car.
‘‘He didn’t put a foot wrong,’’ a spokesman says.
Hart says it took a while to get used to the car, but he was happy to improve with more laps.
‘‘The braking and cornering capabilities are incredible; something you can’t get the feel for until you are actually sitting in the car,’’ he says.