Max Biaggi is to make a surprise return to riding a MotoGP machine. The former 250 and World Superbike champion will take a seat on Ben Spies’ Ignite Pramac Ducati as part of a one-day test at Mugello, as part of Ducati’s testing program, according to Italian site GPOne.

Spies was scheduled to stay on at Mugello to take part in a two-day test, but after the first day of practice at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, it was clear to both Spies and Ducati that his shoulder was still too weak to ride a MotoGP machine. With work continuing on the Desmosedici, it was important for Ducati to get as much data as possible on their bike, and so Biaggi was offered the chance to ride the machine.

The test, Ducati team boss Paolo Ciabatti told GPOne, is just an opportunity for Biaggi to enjoy himself, and to provide some feedback on the bike. Not much is expected of it, as Biaggi has not ridden a MotoGP machine since 2005, when an ill-tempered split with Honda saw him forced to leave the MotoGP paddock.

Biaggi has never ridden a Bridgestone MotoGP tire which, though much improved, are still tricky to learn. And electronic controls have come on in leaps and bounds since then, though the electronics Biaggi used at the factory Aprilia team in World Superbikes last year were at a standard very close to those in MotoGP.

Biaggi will join factory riders Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso on track on Thursday, with the factory men due to stay on for another day after that. Up for testing will be the latest iteration of the lab bike, which features further improvements over the Desmosedici GP13, mainly in the area of chassis stiffness.

When we asked team coordinator Vitto Guareschi when the race version of the lab bike would make its debut at a race, Guareschi replied that no decision had been made yet. “When we know the new bike is ready, we will race it,” he said.

The lesson had been learned in the past two years, when Ducati had rushed to introduce too many new parts at race weekends without thoroughly testing them beforehand. “In the past, we introduced too many things, now we wait until it’s ready,” Guareschi explained.

Biaggi’s test however does not mean that he is a candidate to replace the injured Ben Spies in the upcoming races, Ciabatti told GPOne. For the Barcelona race, Michele Pirro will step in for Spies once again, though this time, he will ride with the lab bike, rather than Spies’ standard GP13.

The engine of the lab bike has the same basic dimensions as the standard GP13, and so Pirro will be able to use the lab bike without disrupting Spies’ engine allocation. Ducati had been hesitant to have Pirro race on the standard bike, as Pirro is such a crucial part of Ducati’s testing plan, and their MotoGP project, Vitto Guareschi told us on Sunday. They feared that the project could suffer severe delays if Pirro was injured in a crash.

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • I would love to see Biaggi wildcard at a race or two sometime down the road. Yeah, I know, but a guy can dream ….

  • CTK

    @Trane Francks be careful what you wish for. Remember how excited we were for Rossi’s return to the M1????

  • @CTK: Indeed, but it would be fun if only to see Vale and Max flipping each other the finger. *SNORT!* :-D

  • Snickerty

    Remember in 2006 when Bayliss wildcarded at Valencia and won the race.

    Max has proven he can ride the wheels off whatever he gets on.

    Go Max!!

  • Shawn

    Am I the only one who sees what’s coming? Ben Spies – though I think he’s a fine guy – is becoming a toxic liability in Moto GP. The simple fact is that he doesn’t produce, he’s always fighting some malady (either physical or mechanical), and for his entire Moto GP career he’s been at odds (or some sort of limbo) with whatever team he’s on.

    He was paid to win races riding a Yamaha. He didn’t even come close, and always complained about the machine and how he wasn’t getting good enough hardware (and at the end, complained about the way he was treated personally). Now he’s being paid to be a highly skilled development rider for Ducati, and he’s not even riding the bike. What good is a development rider who can’t help develop?

    When I was growing up, I was once told, “All the problems you’ve had in your life have one thing in common… YOU. At some point, you have to realize that it’s not always the other guy who’s a jerk – maybe it’s you.” Ever since Ben Spies came to Moto GP, all he’s done is complain and fail to produce. So what’s the truth? Is it some sort of vast conspiracy in Moto GP to keep The Spies down, or is it that maybe, just maybe, the problem is Ben Spies and not everyone else?

    Simple fact: Ben Spies has not produced results in Moto GP. No matter what the reasons, that is the fact of the matter. He was given a chance to reclaim some of his career by being a high-profile development rider at Ducati, and he’s not doing it. Ducati is paying a lot of money for a guy who isn’t living up to his end of the bargain.

    Biaggi’s entrance into this story is the beginning of the end for Spies. One way or another, Spies will be replaced with someone who can produce. It could be next week, it could be next year, and it remains to be seen who the replacement will be. But you read it here first.

  • sbpilot

    Spies will probably be replaced by Scott Redding seeing how well Scott is doing.
    One of the Espargaro brothers needs to get on a prototype, especially Aleix he is absolutely killing it on his ART machine.

    Now to Biaggi, not a fan of him but I like that he is testing. Adds some flavour to the series. Hope Ducati keeps moving forward and hope Dovi does get a podium or two this season with them.

  • sbpilot

    Spies will probably be replaced by Scott Redding seeing how well Scott is doing.
    One of the Espargaro brothers needs to get on a prototype, especially Aleix he is absolutely killing it on his ART machine.

    Now to Biaggi, not a fan of him but I like that he is testing. Adds some flavour to the series. Hope Ducati keeps moving forward and hope Dovi does get a podium or two this season with them.

  • jet

    Scott Redding ,lol.We think not.The ducati’s have had there up’s and down ‘s but mostly they have not shown up to a race w/o problems,Ben has no problem but the bike’s are crap.Honda’s power and quick shifting is far superior and Yamaha’s new Crank put’s balls on the rear tire and well they got a World Champion riding it.Since those bone-head’s let Casey go its been ran like AL DAVIS and them raiders….Redding….hahaha,,,,,,,not!

  • TexusTim

    ducatti is doing as much to ruin his career as he is maybe more…you cant tell me at that level they dont know were spies recovery is..my god man this is the top of the game were dotors and rehab do not come cheap..they had to know when they signed him and at the start of the season, I just dont believe any of there stories…I think no one knows buth them whats really going on here…but to toss around his ride like this make his seat look open to all takers..like blood in the water and all the speculation helps no one at all.
    if I were spies I would bow out gracfully..take the high road rehab the whole season and sign with suzuki for 2014…then win a championship in 15 or 16..he has this in him but needs to dissengage from this ducatti malstorm before his gp career is toast..

  • TheSwede


    Dude you sound personally affronted. Chill man..

    With that said, I think people only remember Ben’s last race, or anyone’s last race for that matter. Perhaps people need reminding that he:

    1. Took two podiums in his ROOKIE year, a second and third
    2. And came in 6th at the end of the year
    3. Next year he became the only non alien to win a race in the DRY for what, going on three years now?
    4. Then took 3 other podiums to boot and came in 5th overall

    2012 was f**ked. No doubt. Nobody’s seen a year like that ever, and he’s still trying to shake it off.Will he come back 100%, the Elbowz we remember? I dunno, but give him the chance he’s earned it

  • zipidachimp

    Back in the Haiwood/Ago era, riders raced hurt to pay the bills. nowadays not so much.
    Mr spies has lost the mental game, nevermind the physical one.

  • smiler

    No one from WSBK has made a positive and lasting impact at the top or middle of motogp. Colin is lucky he is on a CRT. Bayliss made a great result in 2006 but otherwise was middling as well.
    When you see how much effort riders with horrible injuries put into getting back in, I am just not certain Spies wants it. If he does he has a lot of work to do. Ducati want him because he is American and can proflle their product in the US. So sorry TeaxasTim but your comments are just another ill placed conspiracy theory.
    Time will tell but if he does not perform by July thyen Silly season will have started and Cal, Pol Paella, Scotty or De Puniet will step in. It would be good to see him in WSBK, so it is not all bad.
    As for Ducati, gret idea to put Biaggi on the Ducati. Interesting to see how he goes

    Wish they would put Bayliss in WSBK for a couple of wildcards to shake things up. Now that would be fun.

  • Ziggy

    Wouldn’t it be great to see Biaggi in a wildcard race and beat Rossi on his old machine?

  • pooch

    Redding has more ambition than to take a Ducati in MotoGP.

    Best case scenario is Rossi bows out after this year cause he see the writing on the wall… Cal gets his M1, Espargaro to Tech 3 with Smith until Smith gets replaced after 2nd year due to lack of results and Maybe Redding into Tech 3.. or maybe Redding on a Honda production racer ?

    Oh yeh, Max is testing the Ducati… well that’s pretty cool, I for one would love to see him lining up on the starting Grid again.

  • @Shawn and all who think Spies hasn’t shown result in Moto GP.

    I don’t disagree with his whining ways, but you seemed to have forgotten his “winning way” in the process.


    Spies took his first MotoGP podium at Silverstone in Great Britain, taking a third place finish. Spies took second place from pole at home at Indianapolis. He finished the 2010 MotoGP season in sixth place, securing Rookie of the Year honors.


    Spies narrowly missed out on pole position for the Dutch TT in Assen; he qualified second, just 0.009 seconds behind Gresini Racing’s Marco Simoncelli. At Assen, Ben won by almost eight seconds (in all fairness, Simoncelli DID take Lorenzo out) and took his first MotoGP win in the process. After his win at Assen, Spies finished each of the following five races in the top five, taking fourth places at Mugello and Laguna Seca, fifth places at the Sachsenring and Brno, and concluding the streak with his third podium of the season – a third place – at the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

    Spies finished the season with a second place finish in Valencia, missing out on victory at the line, to Casey Stoner by just 0.015 seconds, having capitalised on a previous error by Stoner to take the lead.


    Yes, his 2012 sucked and he lost his factory ride. But, don’t bury him yet. If Biaggi can retire as WSK champ, then be asked to evaluate Spies Desmcedichi, how can you erase someone’s talent at Spies age and only three years in Moto GP.

  • TexusTim

    what conspirecy theory..this is out in the open his ride is in jepardy..you dont have to a cia analist to get that…lol

  • TexusTim

    smiller… cant help but take shots at people directly for some reason..second time you came right at me with only half of what I said as an example…please dont add or take away from my comments man. reminds of some forums your probably used too..this isnt the place for that sir.
    if you dont agree thats fine but why make it look like im paranoid..there wasnt any suggestion of any conspiracy..

  • Norm G.

    re: “Max has proven he can ride the wheels off whatever he gets on.”

    outside of the aprilia, i don’t know what max you’ve been watching the past decade.

    re: “As for Ducati, gret idea to put Biaggi on the Ducati.”

    i’d stop short of labeling it “great”. how ’bout we just call it an “idea”.

  • Norm G.

    re: “but to toss around his ride like this make his seat look open to all takers.”

    you’re right, it’s embarrassing. for the factory that is. the world’s beating such a path to their door to ride the thing, they had to recruit somebody out of retirement…?

  • “outside of the aprilia, i don’t know what max you’ve been watching the past decade.”

    What an odd comment.

    2002 (Yamaha): 2nd in standings
    2003 (Honda): 3rd in standings
    2004 (Honda): 3rd in standings
    2005 (Honda): 5th in standings
    2007 (Suzuki): 3rd in standings
    2008 (Ducati): 7th in standings
    2009 (Aprilia): 4th in standings
    2010 (Aprilia): 1st in standings
    2011 (Aprilia): 3rd in standings
    2012 (Aprilia): 1st in standings

    He may not have rocked the world with Ducati, but he was still within the top 10 that year. Had he fewer retirements on the Duc, he would have done much better. Even so, he was the 2nd placed Ducati rider that season. (Bayliss was champion in 2008.)

  • L2C

    A.) In 2012, Spies was on a lemon for the entire season.

    B.) Lemons are defective.

    C.) Lemons are unreliable, unpredictable and sometimes dangerous.

    D.) Lemon aides make lemons.

    E.) You can’t have a lemon without a facility of lemon aides to make one for you.

    F.) A lemon will make lemons out of your aides, because a lemon is impossible to sort under certain conditions. Arbitrary rules, financial constraints, etc.

    G.) Sometimes lemons are difficult to detect.

    H.) Not all lemons are obvious. Some lemons appear to be well-sorted machines.

    I.) Sometimes special circumstances are needed to expose a well-sorted machine as actually being a lemon because current circumstances act to conceal the well-sorted machine’s true nature.

    J.) Riding a lemon to its limit is possible. In 2012, Spies proved this every race weekend. Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden also proved this at Ducati for the 2011-2012 seasons. Casey Stoner did this for four years at Ducati, from 2007-2010. Stoner even managed to win a championship on his lemon in 2007. But back then it was unknown to everybody, including Ducati and except Stoner that he was in fact riding a lemon. Each rider achieved drastically different results on their respective lemons, but we now know today, without a doubt, that each and every one of those riders rode lemons during those years.

    K.) If you ride a lemon to its limits, it will remind you in one way or another that it is a lemon.

    L.) Wouldn’t you complain?

    M.) In 2013, Ben Spies rides a clunker on a two-year contract for Ducati.

    N.) Clunkers and lemons are the same thing.

    O.) How much confidence would you have in your new clunker, if your old clunker put you in the hospital and under the knife?

    P.) Would you be willing to ride your new clunker to the limit while still nursing an injury that your old clunker saddled you with?

    Q.) If your new clunker told your healing, yet still-injured self to back off, would you risk the remainder of your contract and your life to prove just how manly you are?

    R.) Ben Spies represents a long-term investment for Ducati. They want to see it pay off. That is why Spies still has a job. He has not proved that he cannot ride a well-sorted bike. In fact he has proven the opposite. In the past, he has ridden seemingly well-sorted machines to great results. The bonus is that he has proven to be just as adept at riding a clunker – that is, he exposed its faults when many thought none existed. He exposed his clunker for being a clunker when everyone else believed it to be a well-sorted machine. Valentino Rossi did the same thing at Ducati during 2012-2013. All of these reasons are why Ducati will see Ben Spies through to the end of his contract with the them.

    S.) As a satellite/development/test rider, Spies will eventually provide Ducati with valuable information. Information necessary to make the next version of its Demosedici competitive. That is the primary reason why Ducati contracted Spies, Andrea Dovizioso, Nicky Hayden, Andrea Iannone and Michele Pirro. Many seem to have forgotten this.

    T.) Secondary was Spies’ appeal to the American market. This was an important factor for Ducati, but from the start it was clear that they wanted him to help develop their next MotoGP prototype.

    U.) Ben Spies’ MotoGP career is not over. He doesn’t need to retire. Currently he is taking responsibility to rehabilitate his injury so that he might provide Ducati the feedback it needs to build a competitive bike. He is doing what is necessary so that Ducati will profit in the future from its investment in him. Ducati has stated that Ben has its full support during his recovery.

    V.) Don’t we have lives of our own that we need to get back to?

  • TexusTim

    I dont want to see ben out of motogp…but should he take this year off completly ? I have to say yes. to do this would he have to give up his contract ? well if he did that would defnetly put him in the right place to sign with suzuki which I think is his best shot at a title.. and the most glorious come back in recent moto gp history would be him on the suzuki, hell he could ride and test it this year when hes 100 % if he was free to do so. just sayin the ducati camp is over crowded with eu riders and were is max from again ? interesting beacuse there are other american riders that could be called up to try if the amercan market was the key factor here…but do you really think he has that big a ducatti following with 0 results ? like nicky?..no he doesnt, but has a great following on the suzuki..o thats from america so do we count or not ? time will tell..there already pulling one americaan round, to me its lip service motgp has a tough time in the us..only hard core enthusist keep up..tv broadcast are not localyshown even on race day..what we have hear is a falure to promote the us rounds. throwing around his ride like this doesnt help that. time fo him to move on

  • Norm G.

    re: “What an odd comment.

    2002 (Yamaha): 2nd in standings
    2003 (Honda): 3rd in standings
    2004 (Honda): 3rd in standings
    2005 (Honda): 5th in standings
    2007 (Suzuki): 3rd in standings
    2008 (Ducati): 7th in standings
    2009 (Aprilia): 4th in standings
    2010 (Aprilia): 1st in standings
    2011 (Aprilia): 3rd in standings
    2012 (Aprilia): 1st in standings”

    not odd at all. stats are for people, who’ve never actually WATCHED him race. if not for his being consistently “inconsistent”, his numbers would’ve been better. the data you cite is in SPITE of what he was doing.

  • “stats are for people, who’ve never actually WATCHED him race.”

    His numbers were already good, so if he were less inconsistent he’d have been kinda sorta godlike. But since he simply rode bloody well, we’ll diss his riding (aside from the Aprilia) over the last decade? I can’t say I grok that. Was he inconsistent? Sure, but only to be matched by inconsistency and/or poor performance by his competition. You don’t like the stats, but they don’t lie. His worst season he placed 7th … in a season that had over 30 riders on the grid. Put into proper perspective, even his worst result wasn’t all that bad.

    *shrug* IMO an’ all.

  • Kev71

    Spies is a good rider but I think he is better suited to World SBK (as we saw when he won the championship). As for this year…tough call. If he “takes the year off” then maybe he will be called a “quitter;” however, if he rides he risks never completely recovering from his injury. Which is more damaging, the “quitter” label or poor results and continued injury?

    IMHO: Best case scenario for Spies: Ducati will allow him to recuperate this year and ask him to ride in World SBK next year since Checa is curently 14th and Max Neukirchner is the highest scoring Ducati rider in 12th. Spies is probably their best chance of winning in that series plus they will have an American presence in both MotoGP and World SBK (assuming they keep Hayden).

    If Spies stays in MotoGP the only factory ride he’ll get is with Suzuki. Can he really expect better results on that bike? How much complaining will he do on a developing bike?

    Either way, Spies better be careful. He already burned bridges with Yamaha, will Ducati be next? Honda won’t put up with him and they have too many good riders to choose from anyway. If he isn’t careful he’ll be out of international racing all together and back in the AMA.

  • Norm G.

    re: “Put into proper perspective, even his worst result wasn’t all that bad.”


  • “bridesmaid.”

    ROTFL — I see that we’re gonna have to agree to disagree. (Which is a-okay with me.) I think his 4 250cc titles and 2 WSBK titles speak more to his skill than his other results. *shrug* We all see what we choose to see. :-)