American Flat Track Racer Sammy Halbert at Rossi’s Ranch and the Troy Bayliss Classic

Halbert talks about circumventing the globe with his Mom in 13 Days.

Valentino Rossi's Ranch
Sammy Halbert got the dream ride at Valentino Rossi’s Ranch, not once but twice. The American Flat Track racer made his first visit in November and returned in January for Rossi’s 100 K invitational.Photo: Camliss

For any traveler, a trip around the world is a bucket list item. American Flat Track racer Sammy Halbert got to check that item off his list this Winter racer style: riding at nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi's Ranch in Tavullia, Italy and then heading off to Australia to race three-time World Champion Troy Bayliss' dirt track race – the Troy Bayliss Classic. The icing on the cake was that he got to bring his Mom Shannon along, a truly memorable trip for both.

MotoGP vs. American Flat Track: Rossi and Halbert

“That was a special trip to get to take my Mom with me for a full trip around the world,” Halbert said. “We left from Seattle and went to Italy and then from there to Australia and then back home; we made like a full loop around the globe. It was the first time I’ve taken any family overseas or anything and my mom’s never done a lot of traveling like that. So it was really special to get to take her, and then such a special trip to go ride with multiple World Champions. I got to go ride with Valentino Rossi and he was hosting a race so there was a bunch of other champion motorcycle racers there as well. And then to go to Australia, Australia’s always a good time. Troy Bayliss holds a top notch event. It was a trip of a lifetime for me and my Mom both.”

The trip worked out to be around 13 days and for the first part, friend and fellow racer Josh Chisum joined the Halberts for Rossi’s invitational 100k race at the Ranch. Riding at Rossi’s Ranch is a bucket list item in itself, the dirt paved TT course with elevation changes and off camber corners is a mecca for riders of any discipline. So although the weather got in the way and cancelled the race, it was still epic because they were able to get some good riding in.

Sammy Halbert at Rossi's Ranch in Tavullia, Italy
It’s quite an experience in itself to visit Rossi’s home town in Tavullia, Italy.Photo: Shannon Helbert

“There was some tough weather there in Italy but we got a full day of riding in on Saturday, which was really cool,” he said. “That track’s demanding both mentally and physically. So there’s some really good training there and just fun to hang out with that crowd. On Sunday it rained and was cold. Rossi went and ripped around out there in a pickup truck to test the track out and decided they had to cancel the race, but then said we could ride if we wanted to in the rain. I wasn’t going to because I didn’t want to get all muddy, but then they started Rossi’s bike and said he was going to go out there. So I was like, ‘Whatever, I came all this way. I might as well just ride as much as I can.’ I suited up and it started raining again, so Rossi didn’t go back out, but I went out and rode his track in the mud. It was cool. There’s probably not a lot of people that can say they ripped around Rossi’s ranch in the mud and slop. So it was good. I fell down in the mud just a couple times, but it was a cool experience to do that as well.”

It wasn’t Halbert’s first trip to the Ranch, he made the trip last November with fellow American Flat Track racer Brad Baker. Halbert’s first trip was an awesome experience, but it was better the second time around knowing the track.

Ducati Factory Museum
A trip to Bologna isn't complete without a trip to the Ducati Factory. Shannon Halbert poses with a Desmo.Photo: Shannon Halbert

“The second time going back there I felt a lot more comfortable,” he said. “The bike this time worked better for me, and then just being there the second time, things started to click better. It’s so much like a road race track. Any time I’ve done any road racing it’s always like this, the second day you go everything just works that much better. You learn the track and learn the techniques and stuff. It’s quite a bit different than any flat track I’ve been on. It’s a unique situation, the whole style. I definitely adapted to it a lot more the second time.”

After Rossi’s Ranch, Halbert and his Mom had some time to explore Bologna and tour the Ducati factory before heading to Australia. Halbert has always enjoyed going to Troy Bayliss’ annual dirt track race, but this year’s conditions were prime.

Troy Bayliss Classic
Halbert was hoping for a win this year at the Troy Bayliss Classic, but a mistake on the start cost him. Photo By Mark BracksPhoto: Mark Bracks
Sammy Halbert in Taree, Australia
From the limestone in Italy to the oil track in Taree, Australia… both trips had an immeasurable fun factor.Photo: Shannon Halbert

“It was really good,” he said about this year’s Troy Bayliss Classic. “I had a good ride and I had a great group of people supporting me out there. The track was the best it has been since I’ve been there. Just like the weather – it wasn’t too hot on race day so the track stayed good. So there were really good conditions. I felt like I had stuff working really well. I felt like I had a shot at the win.”

Halbert won some of his heats, but in the end struggled with wheelies and tire spin and didn't get the win he was hoping for. “I went from pretty much fighting the wheelie all day to then in that final spinning the tire,” he said. “I actually had a really good ride to come through a bunch of guys and get up to fourth, but it was just disappointing in the end to go all that way just to kind of blow it on the start when I really had good speed. That bike I was riding was really fast, so I felt like everything was lining up to be able to finally fight for a win there. But still, it was a really good trip so I didn’t let that ruin it.”

Being his fourth-consecutive year at the Troy Bayliss Classic, Halbert has been able to see it grow along the way. It’s an event he’s enjoyed for the racing and the atmosphere.

“It’s grown in ways and changed in other ways,” he explained. “It’s stayed fairly consistent with some different groups of riders, but there’s still the same core group of riders. Every year the fans just pack that place. The event goes on all day long and it’s just crazy how the fans show up in the morning and they stay there all day, all night until it’s over. So it’s just cool to see the enthusiasm of the fans there every year. Every year I go I sell whatever I bring for merchandise. The fans just love it. They get it all. The media coverage there is good. It’s definitely a big event. It’s good to be a part of it.”

Sammy Halbert and mom Shannon in Australia
The Halberts got to spend some time sight seeing in Sydney.Photo: Shannon Halbert

Winter in Italy obviously is a different experience than Summer in Australia. So it was hard to really choose what was a better experience. “It was definitely very different experiences,” he said. “I think just walking around the cities in Italy and getting to eat the Italian food and drink the wine, that was just real cool for my Mom and I to do that. Australia we got to go to the beach and she got to get in the ocean. Definitely good aspects of both… Australia was a little bit busier with the racing side of things I think, but we still got to have some fun and do some other things for her as well.”