Troy Bayliss concluded the three-day test at Mugello today, and the question on everybody's lips has finally been answered: How fast would Bayliss go? 1'51.2 is the answer.
Of course, 1'51.2 is fairly meaningless without any context. Bayliss' lap was faster than regular Ducati test rider Vito Guareschi, who improved his own lap record with a time of 1'51.4, but beating a test rider, while impressive, is not that significant. More important is to compare it to the times set during the dry sessions here last year:
A whole range of factors make it very hard to compare times from a race weekend to times set during testing: Troy Bayliss has not ridden a motorcycle since the launch of the 1198 at Portimao last year; Bayliss has not ridden the 800cc Ducati before; And Bayliss hasn't ridden at Mugello for a while. On the plus side, Bayliss gets three full days aboard the Ducati on a relatively empty track, and a chance to put a significant number of laps on the bike.
Despite the difficulties, there are still some clear indications from the times show above, and Bayliss' time of 1'51.2. The most obvious is that in 2008, only Casey Stoner was capable of making the Ducati fly. But it is also clear that Bayliss is some way off the pace on the GP9. Bayliss' time was around the same as Melandri's fastest race lap, which would put him in 14th place in the rankings. As a comparison, Valentino Rossi's fastest race lap (2nd fastest) was 1'50.034, Pedrosa's (3rd) 1'50.131, Jorge Lorenzo (7th) 1'50.518, Nicky Hayden (11th) 1'50.909.
It would appear that the Ducati remains a very difficult bike to go fast on. We can do little else but speculate, but it seems plausible to suggest that Bayliss should have been closer to the fastest race times if he had been on an easier bike to ride.
After the test, Bayliss did consign any speculation that he might make a return to racing to the garbage can. "I've had three good days during which I've felt like a rider again. It didn't take long to get back into it but, before anyone gets any ideas, I will also say that I'm happy to be heading back to the airport and towards Australia and home this evening: I have no intention of returning to racing!"
Filippo Preziosi had some interesting comments to make about what the team had worked on at Mugello. "Working with Troy has been useful because he has a very different riding style to Vittoriano, and so it's been interesting and beneficial to hear his impressions of the GP9 also. We worked on chassis set-ups that are pretty different from those which we usually use and the results were promising although we need to look at this further."
Bayliss will be back testing the Ducati again, but not until June or July. Times from those tests will be even more interesting.