After all the hype in the Italian media about Friday’s festival in Noale to celebrate the World Superbike Championship victories of Max Biaggi and Aprilia Racing, Biaggi’s announcement for his contract renewal failed to materialize, much to our chagrin. With the build-up and rumors before the event suggesting, and some reputable publications downright saying (ourselves included, minus the reputable part) that Biaggi had signed again with Aprilia, and that the team was set to make the announcement in front of a huge home crowd, the absence of official statement has caused reactions that range the gamut of possibilities.
Some media sources say Biaggi and Aprilia didn’t want to announce the contract right before the MotoGP race at Phillip Island, while others say Biaggi is still holding out for more money. Taking things to the next level, other media outlets have even also gone on to suggest that this is further proof that the 38-year-old Biaggi is set to retire from racing altogether. Deciphering which outlet to believe at this point is really just guesswork, and seemingly everyone is trying to shoehorn their personal view to work with the facts available. And for now, the only fact is that an official announcement hasn’t been made.
Of course that’s not going to stop us from speculating on the events, and as we see it the likely cause of all this is Biaggi playing hardball with the Italian company, with the threat of retirement likely being made to help his bargaining position. Aprilia would certainly be in a lurch at this point in time if they fail to sign Biaggi to the squad, as there are few top riders left to sign in World Superbike (we also hear James Toseland is still available). There is therefore some considerable motivation for the company to lock down Biaggi to the factory team.
Biaggi’s contract (or lack-there-of) is reportedly for two-years, with the Italian being able to withdraw after the first year if he so chooses. With a baby on the way with girlfriend Eleonora Pedron, and the prospect of being 41 when he finished out his obligations with Aprilia, it’s understandable why the Roman Emperor is taking his time in signing with Aprilia. Of course like Rossi in MotoGP, Biaggi’s signature is likely the linchpin act for several other riders who are still without rides, as this game of musical chairs comes closer to a conclusion. More info as we get it, and in the meantime, mea culpa.