This season, his fourth in World Superbike, Max Biaggi has quite literally taken the championship by storm.
The 38 year-old from Rome can count on six wins in 2010 out of his all-time tally of 10, and this year they have all come in pairs, at Portimao, Monza and Miller Motorsports Park.
World SBK spoke exclusively with the four-time 250GP champion (and three times 500GP and MotoGP runner-up) to find out his thoughts on leading the World Superbike Championship on his Aprilia Alitalia RSV4 for the first time.
What is the biggest improvement in competitiveness of the Aprilia RSV4 compared to last year?
Max Biaggi: “We have mainly worked on fine-tuning several different areas. The bike has become a bit more balanced both in engine power delivery and with the cycle parts.”
How does it feel to lead the championship and have only one realistic rival in Leon Haslam?
Max Biaggi: “This is the first time I’ve been in the lead of the world championship this year and to be honest I think it’s a great sensation that makes us proud of all the hard work we’ve done until now. As for me, I am and remain totally focused on getting the best possible result every time I go out on the track… but there’s still a long way to go in the championship.”
Where should the best and worst tracks be for the bike from now to Magny-Cours?
Max Biaggi: “Now you want to know too many things…! Let’s just say that on average I want to go well at all the circuits. That’s what I think!”
How much help is having the test team working in parallel with the official race team?
Max Biaggi: “Well, with a new bike like ours it’s vitally important to have a test team (like BMW, moreover). We can say that for the new arrivals in this championship it’s very important to quickly make up the competitive gap that separates us from the other teams that form part of the history of SBK.”
Is there a difference in feel between the chain driven camshaft engine and the new gear driven camshaft engine?
Max Biaggi: “No, not really. For the moment you can’t notice any difference. The new gear driven cam engine we’ve only used at Miller but maybe from the next round onwards I can be a bit more precise.”
Have you changed your approach to WSBK racing this year, in any way?
Max Biaggi: “I settled in at WSBK right from the very first moment. I was missing an environment that was more concerned with the spirit of competition on the racetrack than MotoGP and I believe I found it in Superbike. This year for me nothing has changed, the big change came when I came back to race again for Aprilia and with the team I chose for this adventure.”
How much is a settled family life, fatherhood etc, helped you this year compared to others?
Max Biaggi: “What can I say? It’s simply fantastic what has happened to me. I didn’t think it could be so nice. I’m really proud to be a father.”
Why are older riders now able to compete when ten years ago it seemed impossible – yet the sport is maybe more physical than ever?
Max Biaggi: “Experience is an additional gift and when you race at the top all these little details count. The new guys who have arrived are all pretty good but very few of them make the big difference. Ben Spies is one exception to this.”