Max Biaggi retired from racing in 2012, after winning the sixth world title of his career with Aprilia in SBK. Eight years have passed and although every now and then Max had a desire to go fast on the track, his time as a professional rider is long gone. Yet in this period Massimiliano is truly at the centre of the attention of fans from all over the world - almost at the same level as when he was still an active rider and aspired to expand his vast victory portfolio.
He recently received the satisfaction of being selected by Dorna to enter the narrow circle of MotoGP Legends.
Back in November he had instead been awarded a similar prize by the FIM, becoming an FIM Legend together with Joel Robert for motocross and Juha Salminem for enduro. But the adulation has kept on coming for Max, who after flying to Sepang to take part in an event for Aprilia on the RSV4 X, has repeatedly been associated with a possible role of test rider, to help whip the new RS-GP into shape.
In Noale they have to tackle the problem related to Iannone, and Max has never hidden his desire to get involved to do his part and maybe even be able to give some useful information to Aprilia engineers.
Present at the MBE in Verona, Max gave an interesting interview with Giovanni Di Pillo, who teased him on numerous topics.
The first was obviously how satisfied he felt about becoming a MotoGP Legend.
"I don't know if it's a good sign, I'm getting too old. It's a nice consecration, something I've been waiting for… for a very long time. Honestly, I’d lost all hope, because quite a few years have gone by. I haven't raced in MotoGP for 15 years, that’s a long time! Of course, I also won two SBK titles, so how many are there in total? Six it seems to me ... if I’m not careful I tend to forget!".
Di Pillo wanted to remember one of the finest moments in Biaggi's career - that magnificent debut in 500cc at Suzuka in 1998. An episode that has obviously remained very dear to Max.
"With Kanemoto we were privateers, but we put on a great show. I was battling with Doohan, it was a great time in my career. Then I had a mentor like Kanemoto close to me. Maybe the young people of today don't remember him, but for us at the time he was a guru. A super enthusiast, someone who experimented with everything to give his rider a winning bike ".
But obviously, the curiosity now is all about the possibility of seeing him on the bike at Sepang, and Max has held back all the rumours, while suggesting that he is more than available if needed.
"As far as I know, I won’t be back on the bike in the MotoGP tests. But I really like it when my presence is required, when Aprilia calls me. Even if it’s just for fun, I am always there for Aprilia. For me, riding a motorbike remains the best thing in the world, as it is for all fans. "
Biaggi also gave his expert opinion on the potential of the new Aprilia V90° engine, which looks really promising.
"The Aprilia V4 should have good potential. It’s a good sign, because when an engine takes shape well it is an excellent thing. Projects are always relative, but the reality is different. The potential is good. There are the tests in Sepang, and it will be interesting because there are some riders who will do both the shake-down and the tests with the factory bikes, like Alex Marquez and some others. They will make major progress with the development work and it will be interesting".
Max also answered questions about the current situation in MotoGP, offering his point of view on how he thinks the 2020 season will pan out.
"This is the era of Marquez in MotoGP. With the Honda, they make a tremendously strong pairing, and maybe it’ll be a Yamaha that can try to undermine him. We have to see if Quartararo will make that extra step he needs. His debut was incredible, but we must see how he will go in his second season, it’ll be tough for him. Then we’ll also have to see how Vinales will go, as he wants to confirm his place as leading Yamaha rider. Rossi certainly won’t be there to make up the numbers. Ducati will also be there at the top and then Aprilia wants to get closer as well. Fighting for the win is not yet possible for us, but we want to make steps forward and I think we are on the right track."
2020 will also be important for Biaggi's team in Moto3, which this year has decided to focus on Romano Fenati.
"Fenati has potential, he has already won more than anyone else in Moto3. It’s true that he is still in the entry category, because he hasn’t had an opportunity to make a definitive move into Moto2. In my opinion, with us he can fight for the victory, maybe do a world championship on the same level as Canet in 2019. It would be important for him to relaunch his career. We are a team that wants a fast rider, because we have a good bike. In my opinion it will be faster than last season."