The rumor that Max Biaggi will be making a return to MotoGP has been floating around almost from the moment Max left the paddock under a cloud at the end of the 2005 season. Any time a seat became vacant, the name Biaggi was almost always the first one on the tips of everyone's tongues. So our initial reaction to the reports emerging from various sources (most clearly at Autosport.com) that Biaggi could return to MotoGP for the 2008 season is take it with a sizable pinch of salt.
This time, however, it could be different. Two pieces of news emerged today which point towards Biaggi actually making the switch back to MotoGP. First came the news that Biaggi won't be riding for Alstare Suzuki in World Superbikes in 2008. The press release talks about sponsorship problems — Alstare lost Corona, their sponsor of many years at the end of this season — being at the root of the split, which translates into Alstare not being able to pay Biaggi's salary demands, which are likely to be nearer 7 figures than 6.
Then, it emerged that Gresini Honda have already been in talks with Biaggi about a ride for next year. Gresini is keen for a big name to ride for the team next year, as that would help attract big-name sponsors, and keep the team competitive, after Marco Melandri decided to leave for Ducati earlier this year.
There is, however, a very large fly in the ointment regarding Biaggi joining Gresini. It is rumored that after the acrimonious break up of Biaggi and Repsol Honda, during which Biaggi rained a torrent of criticism on HRC and the Honda RC211V, after suffering from chatter all season, HRC secretly swore never to allow Biaggi to race a Honda again. As a consequence, HRC may simply refuse to supply Gresini with bikes for next season. On the other hand, Honda may be willing to do anything to get competitive riders on their machines after their dismal 2007 season.
MotoGP could be Biaggi's last chance. With the Roman's exorbitant salary demands, MotoGP could be the only racing series which can afford to pay his wages. Rumors persist that Biaggi would like to race in the US, as he has a winter home in California, and he is said to love the life in America. But the only teams which could afford him are Yoshimura Suzuki, which is already full up for next year, or perhaps Jordan Suzuki, owned by ex-basketball star Michael Jordan.
If Biaggi is to sign for Gresini, he will have to move quickly. Testing begins after the Valencia Grand Prix in 2 weeks time, and the teams will want to get started as soon as possible.