Max Biaggi is back on a MotoGP machine, for the first time since he lost his ride at the end of the 2005 season. The reigning World Superbike champion took to the track at Mugello today to test Ben Spies' Pramac Ducati, and get a feel for a MotoGP machine again. Biaggi was invited to ride the bike by Ducati, mainly just as a friendly gesture towards an old rider, but in part also to give his input on riding the bike. With Spies still absent recovering from his shoulder injury, putting Biaggi on the bike was an interesting prospect. Because of Biaggi's Italian connections, he rode Spies bike, but with bodywork from Iannone's Energy.TI bike.
In a series of posts on his Twitter feed, Biaggi took some time getting up to speed on the machine. An enormous amount has changed since Biaggi last rode a V5 990cc Honda RC211V back in 2005, all of which take a lot of getting used to. The spec Bridgestone tires and the amount of electronic rider aids are two of the biggest changes, though the electronics on the factory Aprilia RSV4 WSBK machine are already highly sophisticated. The tires, though, are totally different to what Biaggi was used to, Bridgestone having made huge steps forward in grip, durability and stiffness in the intervening period, the tires offering much more performance than the Michelins Biaggi used in the past, but also being less compliant. The difference in performance between 2005 and 2013 is huge: Dani Pedrosa's pole record (1'47.157) is over two seconds faster now than the record (1'49.223) set by Valentino Rossi eight years ago, and Marc Marquez' race lap record (1'47.639) is two and a half seconds quicker than Max Biaggi's from 2005 (1'50.117). According to GPOne.com, one of the biggest challenges Biaggi faced was getting used to carbon disk brakes once again, having raced using steel disks during his time in World Superbikes.
Biaggi's lap times caused something of a stir, but for the wrong reasons. The Italian website Motoblog.it had spies posted around the track, one of whom had a stopwatch to time the laps. Unfortunately, due to the distance from the track and the fact that Biaggi was riding a bike in the same colors as Andrea Iannone, the website erroneously reported the time of one of Iannone's laps as that set by Biaggi. There was some consternation that Biaggi would be lapping in the 1'49.7s, which would have been an outstanding time given his long absence from MotoGP. However, the 1'49.7 belonged to Andrea Iannone, Biaggi lapping at a much more sedate pace in the 1'55s, with his fastest lap a 1'54, according to GPOne.com, who had reporter Luca Semprini present at the test.
Biaggi is of course not alone at the test. Andrea Iannone is there testing the Ducati lab bike for the first time, and according to GPOne.com, improved on his best time of the race weekend on his standard Pramac GP13. Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso are circulating on the latest version of Ducati's lab bike, along with test riders Michele Pirro and Franco Battaini. There is no official word from Ducati on how the tests are going, but a press release is likely to be issued on Friday.
Biaggi's first day of testing ended early on Thursday afternoon. The rain which had been threatening finally started to fall shortly after 3pm. The test continues tomorrow, and Biaggi is expected to try the bike once again.