When MotoGP went completely to a completely four-stroke power plant in 2003, there was a new and very flashy player in the game. Ducati had already amassed an enviable record in production-superbike racing, collecting numerous WorldSBK titles with riders the likes of Carl Fogarty, Troy Corser, Raymond Roche, and Troy Bayliss, but full prototypes—as mandated by MotoGP rules—were a relatively new venture for the manufacturer.
For the 2003 season, two beautiful new Desmosedici GP3s lined up on the grid for the opening round at the Japanese MotoGP at Suzuka. Riding them were Loris Capirossi, three-time World Champion, and class-rookie Bayliss, himself the 2001 WorldSBK Champion who had just finished 2002 second only to Colin Edwards in what has gone down in racing lore as one of the greatest WorldSBK seasons of all time.
The GP3, resplendent in a red similar to the scarlet dress of the Formula One Ferraris piloted by Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello (and not sounding too far off from them, either) was a revelation. Capirossi would go on to take a famous win on the model at Catalunya, ultimately finishing fourth in the title race, while Bayliss, after taking three podium places in Spain, Germany, and the Czech Republic, finished sixth by season’s end.
Ducati took its know-how of superbike racing and applied it to the GP3 by using a tubular-steel chassis when the rest of the competition went for the standard aluminum twin-spar design. Yet Ducati retained its trademark desmodromic valve actuation system for the 990 cc, 90-degree V-4 motor that produced north of 230 hp. The Ducati was often the fastest through the speed traps that season (and for many seasons to come), the 17,000 rpm roar making sure everyone knew about the new kid on the MotoGP block.
This incredibly exclusive racer is now being auctioned through Bonhams at its Autumn Stafford—the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show, running October 14 and 15. Capirossi and Bayliss each had two Desmosedici motorcycles at their disposal in 2003, and the one being offered is GP3TB21, as recorded by the tamper-proof sticker on the frame. This sticker was only applied to bikes that were built and ready to race, indicating this is not some spare parts example. This is the genuine article.
Only 12 GP3s are known to exist, and although extremely technologically advanced for its time, the machine is notable in that it’s one of the last pure factory MotoGP racers that regular riders can parade without the need of the support of a proper race team, such was the subsequent development of engine hardware and, in particular, the motorcycle’s vast electronic systems.
This particular GP3 is from the early rounds of the 2003 season, as the chassis was altered partway through the year when the bike’s rectangular engine mounts were changed to a round design. This ex-Bayliss GP3 is also fitted with the steel brake discs that were normally reserved for riding in wet conditions, although it does come with the carbon-fiber discs that offer incredible stopping power but need lots of heat to work as prescribed. Factory MotoGP race bikes rarely come to auction, and this one is expected to fetch more than $350,000.
Click here for more photos of the Troy Bayliss 2003 Ducati Desmosedici GP3.