Thursday, 2nd March 2006
Despite heading home with a slim two-point lead in the World Superbike series, Troy Bayliss is under no illusion that he can repeat the double victory he took at Phillip Island in 2002.
The Australian returns to the WSBK this season after a few years in MotoGP, and admits that little has changed, with the level of competition much the same as when he left. The main difference, however, is that there are now even more riders capable of taking victory.
"There was plenty of action in Qatar because all the manufacturers are up at the front and that's exactly what the public wants to see - different brands of bike fighting for the win," he confirmed, "A lot of guys like myself have also come back from MotoGP, and everyone seems to be capable of doing a good result, which is exactly what the championship needs.
"Obviously, we want to be consistent because points are what's going to win us the championship in the end, but I love to win races as well and, the last time I was at Phillip Island in superbikes, we did that twice. It's not going to be easy this time, but I'm feeling confident."
Victory appeared to be on the cards at the opening round of the 2006 campaign last weekend but, ultimately, Bayliss had to settle for a brace of second places.
"In Qatar, we did a really good job, despite having to use the hardest front tyre that Pirelli had, but everyone had this problem," he said, "Now I'm back here at Phillip Island with Ducati Xerox, both of which make me feel much more at home, and we'll be able to use the front tyre we like and feel most comfortable with."
New team-mate Lorenzo Lanzi had a weekend of mixed fortunes in Qatar, failing to convert a front-row grid slot alongside poleman Bayliss into anything better than sixth place after a high-side in the first race left him bruised for race two.
"Apart from qualifying, the start to the season wasn't the best," the 24-year old Italian confirmed, "Luckily, the nasty crash I had in race one didn't have any serious consequences but, in race two, I couldn't do much better than sixth because of my physical condition.
"Now we are at Phillip Island, I am convinced that I can get some good results. I like the track, and hopefully I can get off to a good start in free practice by finding the right settings and doing a qualifying session like in Qatar. I would be happy to get on the front row here, which will give me a chance of fighting on equal footing with the best - but it's not going to be easy to set things up as I've never ridden here with this bike before."