Rossi and Bayliss scrapping out in the desert at Losail... Looks like it's a go.
It is a promoter’s dream. And it is looking more real all the time!
“The Duel in the Desert!” February 14, 2009, Losail, Qatar! Reigning MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi takes on reigning World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss in the battle for World Roadracing Bragging Rights…and with Max Biaggi on the new Aprilia RSV4 looking for vengeance and the world’s best Superbike riders, including AMA Superbike Champion Ben Spies, all in with a chance. Be there!”
Valentino Rossi was never kidding when he said he wanted to have a go at Troy Bayliss, reigning and now retired Superbike World Champion. In fact, he tried to convince Yamaha to prepare an R1 for him in time for the final race of the 2008 season at Portimao, Portugal.
I talked to Yamaha officials at Portimao and found the usually cooperative Yamaha Europe racing boss, Laurens Klein Koerkamp, to be evasive and even nervous. When I asked what his comment was on the Moto Sprint story he almost ran away, saying, “I can't comment. I haven't read the story.”
Rossi has since used almost every interview opportunity to talk about how much he enjoys watching World Superbike racing, how much more exciting it is than MotoGP, and how much he would like make a World Superbike ride.
Now Moto Sprint is reporting in Italy that Rossi will ride an R1 at the second round of the World Superbike Championship in Losail, Qatar, on March 15th and that Troy Bayliss, with the full blessing of Ducati Corse, has agree to come out of retirement to make one final ride on the 1098 against Rossi, who would ride one of the new “Long Bang” R1 Yamahas, the bikes that will be campaigned this year by reigning AMA Superbike Champion Ben Spies and Tom Sykes of Great Britain.
Troy Bayliss dropped in on MotoGP during the 2006 finale, when after taking his second SBK crown he smoked the GP crew at Valencia in a one-off ride with Ducati.
This sounds like an Ali-Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” of 1974 in Zaire, and I am giving notice that the patent for “Duel in the Desert” is mine.
The British press, caught off-guard, is playing down the story today, like they always do when they miss one. Spain’s Motociclismo and Solo Moto, closer to the Italian scene, are giving more credence to the Moto Sprint story with affirmations by Rossi, Bayliss, and Davide Tardozzi than to the denials coming from Yamaha’s GP Racing Boss Lin Jarvis.
Jarvis says that there are no plans for this to happen, and that is probably true… no plans that Yamaha and Jarvis know about, but Rossi, who has tested a Ferrari F1 car and taken part in World Rally events, appears to have almost absolute freedom to do what he wants outside the confines of the MotoGP season. And, as Honda learned at the end of 2003, what Valentino wants, Valentino gets -- or he walks.
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