Nästan tusen dagar sedan sitt senaste race har Max Biaggi meddelat att han gör comeback i Superbike-VM. Detta kommer att ske i hans hemland Italien, på Misano-banan kommande helg. Den tvåfaldige Superbike-världsmästaren, 2010 och 2012, kommer att tävla med en tredje Aprilia RSV4 för Aprilia Racing Team - Red Devils.
Planen är att Max Biaggi även ska delta i racet på Sepang i Malaysia den 2 augusti.
Här nedan följer en intervju med Max på engelska, saxad från WorldsBK.com:
Max, how do you feel to be returning to the track?
It feels as though it has been an eternity! Obviously I have never lost sight of motorbikes - I’ve always been following them somehow. Now I’ve taken this decision to race again, but only for fun and for the sheer pleasure of it. I’m getting myself ready for whatever comes my way and will try to get the best out of it.
What is the Max Biaggi approach to the weekend?
No doubt I will be guided by instinct. I will be relying on my memories from the past, as it’s been a long while since I last competed in a race. There will surely be a moment when reality hits home…seconds escape you quickly and the other guys are out there every two weeks. I’m not scared about it, though. I know exactly who will be very fast and for that reason I’m not stating any expectations before I start.
What can you say about what Jonathan Rea has achieved so far this year?
Johnny is a guy I have a lot of respect for and I’m glad he has finally had the opportunity to demonstrate what a rider he really is.
You have already ridden at Misano this year, haven’t you?
Yes, but only for a test to verify some components and solutions, so I’ve not had a proper shot at it with the current package being used by Haslam and Torres. There is another element to throw into the mix as well: a completely new track surface at Misano… Misano has had a facelift, which was something it needed. The new asphalt is not bad; the heat can sometimes make things more difficult, but it is certainly a step forward.
What has changed since 2012?
For sure things have changed…after all, three years have passed by. Wheels are now 17-inch rims whereas back then they were 16.5 inches. The tyres are different too. On top of that, this year we have seen big technical changes which have removed some of the benefits from certain bikes but, in any case, it is different. It will not be easy to find the limit. It’s not just a question of courage, but also of trust and focus.
Earlier this year, Troy Bayliss returned to action in Australia and Thailand. Is there anything in common between his return and your own?
I was surprised to see Troy return, but at the same time I liked it. Having shared the circuit with him in the past, I was pleased to see him back in action. His return could be described as ‘romantic’…and it wasn’t a slow return!
As a Champion and a winning rider, the desire to compete is never lost, is it?
No, it is never lost. But, when you stop racing, you lose something in terms of physical and mental preparation – and these are not irrelevant factors.
You have never stopped completely, though…
I’ve done some tests, but no more than that. Of course, whenever Aprilia asks me to try some new components or solutions, I’m not straining them 100%. In the tests we have been testing things out, as opposed to looking for real speed.
In Thursday’s press conference for the Catalan MotoGP, we heard Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez all saying they were pleased to see you making a return to racing. Valentino said he might even come to watch!
The three of them were very friendly and complimentary, but that only adds to the pressure [laughs]! As I said, this return to racing is about enjoying it as much as possible and for that reason so much of the pressure disappears automatically. I know there is a group of riders who will be untouchable but, saying that, we’ll see. My reference is Bayliss. Troy did two good races in Thailand, but of course the guy at the front was in a completely different league.
It seems that the fans and the press believe you can do even more...
I do not set limits, but I’m very realistic. Troy’s best finish was a ninth place, if I remember correctly – not bad on a World Superbike grid. I hope that my results are not far off. Everything will depend on how the weekend evolves and about getting off to a good start. It’s been three years since I have found myself in this situation. I’ve stayed quiet. Now the adrenaline and the pressure are about to be felt again and it might not be as easy to manage it as it was in the past. I have all of the guys from Aprilia with me and they will give me the best possible chances to do well.
Are you ready for all of the fans who will be coming to see you?
The more fans that come, the happier I will be! It will be like a party for me and for them - a kind of reunion. The fan club will be at the forefront of it all, as well as all of the other bike fans. It’s going to be fun!