I feel good on the bike ... I just feel at home doing it again. It is nothing different for me even though I am a little bit older.

At 48, you could forgive three-time World Superbike champion Troy Bayliss for not wanting to race with the younger guys.

The veteran Australian racer is at the Classic Motorcycle Racing Festival at Pukekohe Park Raceway this weekend, where he will be the star attraction, riding demo laps.

Although he isn't racing full noise, it isn't because he's passed that stage of his career. Quite the opposite.

Bayliss is entering the fiercely-contested Australian Superbikes Championship this year and is preparing for a serious tilt at winning one of the few titles that has eluded him during a glittering career.


"I am racing the full series in the Australian Superbikes Championship," he told the Herald on Sunday. "It is nice to have a ride and do some demo laps and have a bit of fun but come Monday, I have to be back home and get my butt into gear training for the first round at Phillip Island [in Victoria]."

Bayliss, who won the world championship in 2001, 2006 and 2008 and is the third most successful rider in terms of race wins in the history of the sport, was coaxed out of retirement this year.

"We had a couple of young guys last year and Callum [Spriggs] was injured most of the year and we had one other young guy do a couple of races but he was inexperienced and just needs a bit more time," Bayliss said.

"We needed a bit of experience on the bike and to keep the sponsors happy. The good thing for it is that it really has got me back, healthy and in shape. I feel good on the bike — we just did a test at Phillip Island and I was pretty close to the front.

"I just feel at home doing it again. It is nothing different for me, even though I am a little bit older."

Troy Bayliss. Photo / Getty Images
Troy Bayliss. Photo / Getty Images

Despite his global success, the Taree-born Bayliss never won the Australian title, which is likely to have played a part in his comeback.

"I came very close in the Superbikes Championship a few times but I was dragged off to Europe before I managed to get an Australian championship.

"I'm 49 in March so I've certainly got my work cut out for me. I've been living like a monk lately trying to do everything I can to put myself in a good position."


Bayliss isn't the only big name in action at Pukekohe. Former leading Kiwi riders Aaron Slight and Andrew Stroud will also be in action, while many of the most famous bikes in the sport's history will be on show.

"Obviously it is all about this classic festival this weekend at Pukekohe," he said. "Honestly, New Zealand has a lot of history in motorcycle racing. A lot of good riders have come from here.

"Everyone knows about Dale Britton and Ken McIntosh and a lot of good stuff has gone on here. The guys are heavy into it, so it's a great thing to come to and support the club and have a good time.

"I've been going to events like this now for the last few years — the way everything is going — there are so many electronics and everything involved these days. You come along to these meets and you see guys that can actually work on the bike and build stuff and it is a different group altogether.

"You see guys that used to be your rivals but now you become friends and you get on better."

Bayliss enjoyed plenty of success in Superbikes but had a less-than-successful stint in MotoGP. He still follows both categories well after the elite part of his career finished.

"It is pretty much how it was when I left, just there are more electronics involved," he said. "Superbikes is just a nicer paddock to be in — it is a bit more relaxed even though it is business.

"MotoGP is so cut-throat, it is like F1. If you are not in the top one or two, she is hard yakka there. Quick as you can turn around, you'll have a knife in your back.

"Everyone loves MotoGP. Superbike is still a great championship but MotoGP is the elite class of the sport.

"Everyone knows [Marc] Marquez or [Andrea] Dovizioso."

And who does Bayliss tip to win this year's MotoGP title?

"I really think it will be Marquez but I tell you who will be a big surprise is [young Australian rider] Jack Miller. He is certainly going to be a top six finisher in the championship.

"He looks right at home on the Ducati and I know the fellas he's working with, so he will go well."

Troy Bayliss

• Born March 30, 1969.

• 3 World Superbike championships (2001, 2006, 2008, all with Ducati).

• 52 race wins (third most all-time).

• 45 MotoGP starts — 1 win, 5 podiums.

• Retired 2008.