World Superbike Interview
Following is the official transcript of the MMP teleconference with Max Biaggi on Nov. 17, 2010
Moderator: Good morning, everybody. Thank you for joining us today. My name is John Gardner, and I am the Media Manager for Miller Motorsports Park. This will be our final teleconference of the year with riders from the Superbike World Championship. Today, we’re happy to have the 2010 Superbike World Champion, Max Biaggi, with us.
Max, as you know, won 10 races this year, riding the No. 3 Aprilia RSV4 1000F for Aprilia Alitalia Racing. He swept the weekends here at Miller Motorsports Park as well as at Misano, Monza and Portimao. He also had single victories at his favorite track, Brno, as well as at Magny-Cours.
So Max, welcome, again.
Max Biaggi: Yeah, well, hi. Thank you. Thank you. How are you?
Moderator: Good. And congratulations on your championship.
Max Biaggi: Yeah. I’m very, very proud and happy for myself, of course. But we know a lot of people were involved in this project who helped make it possible.
Moderator: It’s the off-season now. What are you doing during the off-season?
Max Biaggi: Well, I’m checking out a few things, getting ready for traveling to the test at the end of this month. We’re going to test in Australia, so I’m preparing a few things to be ready.
Moderator: And you’ve re-signed with Aprilia for another two years, so that’s good news.
Max Biaggi: Yes. Yes. I did. I’m very happy for that. They asked me for two more years racing with them and just to try to confirm what we’ve done in 2010. And everybody is very happy.
Moderator: Looking down the road, what do you think about your future in racing? You think that will be it? Will you think about retiring there or just keep going until you feel like you don’t want to do it anymore?
Max Biaggi: Well, when you make a great result, the day after, of course, you think about what you’ve done and if you want to keep doing this, and if you have extra motivation to keep going. So it is always give and get. I won the championship in Imola. The race after that was at Magny-Cours and still I was fighting really hard to get another victory and I did. So I think my hunger is still there. So I still have a lot to do and I’m not ready yet to think about something different than motorcycles.
Moderator: You swept both races here at Miller Motorsports Park this past year. And the two guys who’ve done that have gone on to win the World Championship. Tell us, is this a track that you like? Or how does it compare with the other tracks you race on?
Max Biaggi: Yes, totally. I always said from the first time I’ve been there that the track is simply fantastic. It’s very safe, nice and smooth, and the tarmac is always good. We cannot ask for more than that. Safety is the most important thing for riders. And that track is simply fantastic. I wish there were many tracks like that in America, but unfortunately, I’ve been on other tracks and not one is close to that one. So congratulations to the guy who designed the track and had the strength to build this kind of track in America.
Moderator: Well, we appreciate that. And we’re looking forward to having you back next May.
Operator, if you would, I think we’re ready to open it up to the media callers.
Operator: Our first question comes from David Swarts of Roadracing World.
David Swarts: I wanted to talk more about your new two-year deal with Aprilia because I think I read that you did have to maybe stop and think about if you wanted to continue. And I don’t know if that was accurate, but did you have to stop and think if you wanted to continue or do something else?
Max Biaggi: They were offering me this contract for two years, but I asked them to give me some time. For the fifth time I am a World Champion, of course, and it’s never enough. But I have my own family and my little daughter is now 1 year old. And I have one more baby coming in few weeks. And I was thinking – like any other human being – whether it was the right thing to do, because the family is growing up and my attention is most of the time for my motorcycle world with all the people involved on this project. And I don’t want to take anything from my family, so I stop and think first. I wanted to have the approval from my girlfriend and be sure that she’s okay if I’m still doing this. And because she knows when I’m involved in this, all my days, all day long, I’m thinking most of the time about my motorcycle, about all the people and what they are working on and how to improve.
So after I got her approval, I was very happy to tell the headquarters of Aprilia that I would continue. We didn’t even negotiate so much, because it was not about the money, it was just about the timing and whether I really wanted to do it or not.
But we got this deal done and now I’m super happy and very, very motivated.
David Swarts: You said maybe the race at Imola was a test for you and for your hunger to see if you still wanted to continue also?
Max Biaggi: Yeah, yeah, of course. For example, after Imola, in Magny-Cours, with the World Championship in my pocket, I still had energy left to win in the last race of the year. So that’s proven how I have so much desire to win again. And I’m not ready to think about something besides motorcycle racing.
Operator: Our next question comes from Kevin Cameron of Cycle World Magazine.
Kevin Cameron: Can you compare the state of motorcycle electronics now in World Superbike with MotoGP when you were last riding in that series?
Max Biaggi: Well, I first rode in MotoGP in 2005 and between the 2005 MotoGP bike and the 2010 Superbike there is a little bit of a gap in advanced electronics. Of course, in MotoGP they work so much on this area, while in Superbike, most of the manufacturers send all their information from MotoGP to Superbike; they just pull it from one bike to the other. They just transfer. For us, it is more difficult because Aprilia doesn’t have MotoGP bikes.
But more or less, like I said, we are a little bit behind MotoGP, but that’s good because in a way, our bikes, the weight is like 20 kilos more. And we have steel brakes, so electronics can maybe make you even go faster, but it is better the way we do it because really we have plenty of power.
Kevin Cameron: I see that there are now more riders who are older men. And this makes me think of the world of fighter planes. They used to think that to fly a fighter, you needed to be young and crazy. But now, it seems that older men are the craftsmen of racing. They know what they’re doing and they do it safely. I think this is a big change for racing.
Max Biaggi: In a way, it looks like that. Only a few people can really do this. I have no more than two, three people to tell you who are older and still winning. But of course, now the average age now is higher.
When you speak to people who are 20 about being 40 years of age, they think 40 is old. Now, 20 years later, when you speak to 40-year-old men it doesn’t seem as old as it did 20 years ago.
So everything is getting better. And, of course, everyone is looking younger than before. And America is the place where everybody cares about the youngness, no?
Kevin Cameron: But I think also maybe racing is safer so it doesn’t break people.
Max Biaggi: Ah, well, if you look 50, 40 years ago, of course. Racing was sometimes equal to death, so they raced on temporary tracks with funny bikes and so on. Now, they know that safety is Priority No. 1 for everybody, not only the racetrack but bikes and equipment, helmets, gloves, boots… everything’s getting better, better and better, to try to save people.
Kevin Cameron: You seem to be much happier in World Superbike than you were in MotoGP. Can you comment on that?
Max Biaggi: Yeah, indeed. I am. Coming from MotoGP to Superbike, I really see the spirit that was missing there. Here, it is pure racing and when you wake up in the morning, you still want to fight and run the track with all other riders, and try to have fun. And it’s not so difficult to have fun in Superbikes. While it came very rarely in MotoGP because everything is written down — who can be competitive on the top two or three teams, and who can never be there. So it’s more about the package that you’re racing with.
So in Superbike, even if you’re on the second or third row and your package is still close to the guys who are winning races, it doesn’t matter; it’s just if you feel you can do it or can still fight for the win. It’s really more up to you than to the package.
Operator: Our next call comes from Matthew Miles of Cycle World Magazine.
Matthew Miles: I have a question about your motorcycle.
Max Biaggi: Okay. Great.
Matthew Miles: What areas would you like to see improved for 2011?
Max Biaggi: Well, there are always little things where you can improve all the time, but the perfect scenario is never going to happen. But if there is only one thing I can ask for to be better; it’s the drivability of the engine, so the kind of the power connection with the drivability. That’s the area there I would like to be improved for 2011.
Matthew Miles: Anything with the chassis?
Max Biaggi: If I have a second opportunity to ask, yeah, I would like to be better on traction; mechanical traction. So thinking about the rear from the link to the suspension and geometric traction.
Matthew Miles: Did you try a lot of different setups or changes?
Max Biaggi: Yeah, we always try to move things here and there, up and down, just try to explore what you gain and what you lose when you move something around. And more or less, we know where we are. And also, we can have something better to test. But it’s not that easy. And I presume not so much will change for us in 2011.
Matthew Miles: Were you making those changes throughout the season?
Max Biaggi: Well, if something’s coming to test, we will always be happy to try it. It doesn’t matter if we have a test track. We also are able and open to test during the races.
Matthew Miles: Okay. One other question. Ducati pulled its support from World Superbike for 2011. What is your opinion of that decision?
Max Biaggi: Well, that’s a poor decision, I would have to say, because World Superbike made them famous. Before that, they were almost nobody. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember anybody speaking about Ducati before they started to be successful in World Superbike. After they collected so many good results and a championship, everybody started to follow Ducati, Ducati, Ducati. So I’d have to say that they for sure have to give so much back to World Superbike and to the Flamminis, who invented the championship, and to pull out in this way was really not the best thing to do.
But once again, we cannot decide for other people. We just see the facts. There are still some privateer Ducatis racing, and they proved they can be faster than the Ducati factory riders. So really, nothing’s changed, but there’s no factory Ducati in World Superbike. On the other hand, there are still fast Ducatis that look like factory Ducatis.
Operator: Our next question comes from Ron Lieback of UltimateMotorCycling.com.
Ron Lieback: Could you take us through like your mental mindset, like what you do from the time you get to the paddock at any race to the time you’re finished?
Max Biaggi: Most of the time, it starts on Thursday, the day I come to the track, I’m always very, very focused on what I’m doing. And mentally, I’m into the projects, working all day long on set up and things to improve with my engineer, even at night. For example, before I go to sleep, I look at details of telemetry and the time sheets to check the section times, all the section times, to see where I can improve, and if these match with the, for example, for the gearbox decision, if it can be better or not. I’m always focusing very much on details. And of course, when I’m there, I’m not the same person that I am when I’m here at home because when I’m so focused, I put all my energy into it. And that’s good because when you are concentrating on what you do, when you make a good result, you are even happier.
Ron Lieback: What’s your outlook for 2011? Who do you think your biggest rivals will be?
Max Biaggi: Of course, I really would like to confirm what I’ve done in 2010. But I’m very honest with myself; clearly, it’s not going to be easy and it will be even more difficult. One more guy [Marco Melandri] came from MotoGP and he will be able to jump on the bike and be fast; he is a World Champion. He’s already proved he can win World Championships. So it’s not something really new that he has to develop and use his ability to put up there on the No. 1 place. Like, for example, Aprilia or BMW. Anyway, it’s not only Yamaha, but Ducati and Honda; they will be very, very strong from the start of the season. So everyone, even the young riders now that they are one year older and one year more experienced, will be more accurate, to not lose any points or make mistakes like the year before. So it will be tough, but I’m really open to see what is going to be. And my motivations come even higher.
Ron Lieback: Since you’ve got so much experience on track, do you get a lot of the younger guys coming to you for information?
Max Biaggi: Well, the young people around and in a way, it’s kind of — they tease me, you know? The give me a lot of friends, a lot of energy, and I now have much more competition than before. For some riders, maybe this is a bad point; for me, it’s a really good point.
Ron Lieback: What are your thoughts about the return of World Superbike to the Donington circuit?
Max Biaggi: Donington was a very nice track, up and down, and some blind corners; very, very challenging. It was very good to race up there. I’m happy to go back and race there. And I know the track is a little bit modified compared to two years ago. Maybe some part of the track they rebuilt. I’m positive on that. But most of the track maybe is the same. I’m very happy to go back there. In England, World Superbike is very popular. I have a lot of fans there and I can’t wait to go there.
Ron Lieback: When you returned home to your native Italy, how much different was your fan reception there compared to years past?
Max Biaggi: When coming back to your hometown with another World Championship in your hand, of course, then everybody’s more happy and smiling, and have a lot of positive feelings around me. Compared to the past, of course, my last World Championship was more than 10 years ago. And maybe some people believed it wasn’t going to happen again. But I did it again, and like more than 10 years after, so it was a little like a dream come true for me.
Ron Lieback: What are your thoughts on Rossi riding with Ducati?
Max Biaggi: Well, that was a good move. It was a good move for him because for sure in Yamaha, Lorenzo became the World Champion. He knew he was going to make it because, of course, he also had an injury, but before that he was still leading the championship points and this guy was ready to take the No. 1 plate. So he was thinking about getting out, or to find another challenge, another solution. And Ducati, I think, is good for him. But the other big question mark is, Ducati’s already been World Champion once, so it’s not going to be rosy to save the — how to say it — to save the planet. Stoner already did it. And so he will be only the second to make this kind of a victory if he’s going to make next year.
But I’m positive that Rossi, he will make it. I don’t know when, but I think he will make it.
Operator: Our next question comes from Matthew Davidson of Motorcycle-USA.com.
Matthew Davidson: For Aprilia to win the World Superbike title in only its second year is pretty impressive. What do you think makes the RSV4 a championship winner?
Max Biaggi: If you go back to ‘09 and the way we started, I had so many question marks in my head. But we worked a lot, and tested and tested and tested, and just to give them the right direction to follow. And it took some time because it’s not so easy when you don’t have the real background of four-strokes. But they’ve proven they have the skill, even with four-strokes. And together we claimed the year. And two years is only 730 days, and it’s really a ridiculous amount of time to get the World Championship the way we did it.
So big, big congratulations to my team. My factory worked day and night to do this, and I’m just hoping that there’s still more to come. That’s my hope.
Matthew Davidson: How does your most recent Superbike win rank in terms of your overall career?
Max Biaggi: Honestly, this World Championship gives me so much back because it came at a mature age. I’m not that young anymore and so I’m thinking more when I do things. To get this kind of pleasure of when I’m almost 40, I really appreciate much more than before. I live the moment much more intensely than 10 or 15 years ago. So that’s why I said this Superbike World Championship, it just thrilled me so much.
Matthew Davidson: If given the opportunity, would you ever consider racing in MotoGP again?
Max Biaggi: Well, only if someone came to me with a really nice project. Everything must be very, very nice to consider it. But at the moment, really, I signed this deal with Aprilia for two years. I do not have any question marks in my head. I still want to stay in World Superbike. And it is so nice to be working with this group of people. So, really, not so much.
Matthew Davidson: Being a fellow countryman, have you and Valentino Rossi ever reconciled?
Max Biaggi: Well, I think, in a way, we respect each other. And even if we don’t, we are not best friends. Everyone lives his life. Everyone has his own way to see things. Everyone has his own life and doesn’t see things from the same angle.
But at the end of the day, we’re two top sports guy in the country and, really, I’m just looking at myself and where I can improve. So I think Rossi will still do the same thing himself.
Matthew Davidson: Heading into the 2011 season, who would you identify as your biggest threat?
Max Biaggi: I presume Ducati and Yamaha; they have strong riders and very good technicians. So Carlos Checa, Milandri, and Jonathan Rea with Honda, and I will put myself in the middle; why not? Haslam with BMW. They will be the new face of 2011. They will do some great races, I presume this. But other than that, this championship is very nice because everyone can win races. You can see last year. But at the end of the day, you got to be very consistent from the start to the end. And we’ll try to do this again in 2011.
Matthew Davidson: For 2011, you’ll be joined once again by your teammate, Leon Camier. How do you feel about this? And how do the two of you get along?
Max Biaggi: I’m very happy with Leon Camier. He’s quite a good rider and he had his own opportunity in year 1 with Aprilia. And he will be much better in year 2. But still, he can improve and he’s fast, and hopefully not faster than me! I will be even happier, but if not, we will try to improve the bike from my own way to work and from the ability he had in the BSB.
Operator: Our next question comes from Dean Adams of SuperbikePlanet.com.
Dean Adams: Are you in Malibu or are you still in Monaco? Where are you now?
Max Biaggi: Yeah, Monte Carlo.
Dean Adams: Monte Carlo. Okay. And Eleonora is going to have the baby here very soon, yes?
Max Biaggi: Yeah, one month. The baby is due on the 26th of December.
Dean Adams: Ah, Christmas. So do you know what you’re going to have? Girl? Boy? Just find out?
Max Biaggi: Maybe kind of the middle. I’ll check it out. I will find out soon. It’s going to be something new.
Dean Adams: Great, I think. Max, you really mulled over resigning this year, I think, because a little bit of you is ready to get on with the rest of your life, and do something other than ride. Do you see yourself getting like a real job when you are done racing? What are you going to do?
Max Biaggi: No; come on. Don’t joke with me. A real job when you’re over 40? I think it’s too late. But during the year, I learned so many things in this world, in the motorsport world, and of course I re-signed a deal for two more years that ends in 2012. I will find a way. Maybe I’ll have some opportunity to work with Aprilia. The president talked to me about the future, and we have some ideas. But let’s see, because every day, every week, every month, something changes, so nothing’s really for sure. So I will get through these two years day by day and we’ll see what’s going to happen.
Dean Adams: No better evidence that Max Biaggi has mellowed, than you actually asked someone else what they thought, if you should continue racing or not. I can remember a time when maybe that wasn’t the case. But, Max, you seem much happier today than you were, say, five or seven years ago. Would you agree with that?
Max Biaggi: Yeah. It’s no problem to admit that, for sure. I’m much more me now than seven, eight years ago. Because I proved that I can fight even with the big, strong people, but seven years ago, sometimes it was impossible to fight with the giants. When you have a giant against you, not just because he’s better than you, but because he has much more than you, and it’s difficult to control this. Maybe it’s the same reason why Milandri moved to Superbikes. Who knows? Ask him. But MotoGP is more up to the package than to the rider’s ability, that’s for sure. And now, when I came into World Superbike in 2007, I miss the World Championship by only for a few points in the last races, but I really still proved I was the man to fight for the World Championship. But now the championship is much more, more complicated than that.
Operator: Our next question comes from Laurel Allen of Road Racer X.
Laurel Allen: You have a high-corner-speed style that seems sort of really ideal for today’s MotoGP bikes. Do you ever regret not getting the chance to ride an 800?
Max Biaggi: Yeah. That is a good question. 800cc seems like it would really suit me if I was up there, but now I’m back in World Superbike. But always at the end of the day when I check how you can be faster on an entire lap compared to another one, and you can make the difference all in the corner speed, corner speed and entry on the corner. So at the end of the day, it’s all about that. And so, Superbike or MotoGP, for me it doesn’t make much difference. It’s just that, in Superbike, I’m happier than before.
Laurel Allen: With MotoGP planning the switch to 1000s in 2012 and some of those bikes expected to be production-based, do you think the line between MotoGP and World Superbike is becoming too blurred?
Max Biaggi: Well, honestly, I think in two years’ time, some production engines, they can be built on MotoGP chassis. So maybe some teams, even in World Superbike, will enter in MotoGP. I believe that. But this is not up to me. The decision’s up to FIM and to the rules. Until 2012, there’s one more year and I would hope to focus on this year and then we will see the year after what it’s going to be.
Laurel Allen: Will you be spending any time in California this winter?
Max Biaggi: Yeah, yeah, of course. Normally, I come in December and January, but unfortunately this year, or fortunately this year, my girlfriend, she get a little baby in one month’s time, so she cannot fly. We will spend the winter here in Monaco. I’ll come over a few days before the Miller Motorsports Park race, so in May.
Laurel Allen: Excellent. Well, congratulations on the baby also, and thank you.
Operator: I’m showing no further questions at this time.
Moderator: All right. Well, we appreciate everybody taking part in this today. And it’s been an awesome year for Max and it’s been a good year for Miller Motorsports Park. And we look forward to doing more of these next year.
Max, we’d like to wish you a happy and relaxed off-season. And happy holidays. And we’re looking forward to seeing you back here in Utah on May 28-30 for the USA Round of the Superbike World Championship.
Max Biaggi: Yeah, thank you very much. Thanks for having me. And I can’t wait to get back to Miller Motorsports Park.