Aprilia rider standings after 7 rounds, 14 races

Max Biaggi, Aprilia - 5th Shinya Nakano, Aprilia - 14th

Aprilia's return to Superbike competition can certainly be described as eye-catching following an impressive first-half to the season, particularly in the hands of Max Biaggi.

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While not too much was made of the RSV-4, compared with the BMW S1000RR at least, until it was revealed Biaggi would be their star rider, the combination of man and machine has certainly been a match made in harmony.

Indeed, the svelte bike has been quick at almost every venue, occasionally troubling Ducati and Yamaha at the front of the field, while Biaggi has shown it to have impressive pace over a race distance and a single lap.

For a bike that Biaggi still considers to be under development, rivals should be worried that the second half of the season will see them prove more consistent challengers, not least because 'Mad Max' is certainly growing in confidence.

Fifth in the rider standings, fourth in the manufacturer table and with two podiums to their name after seven rounds, Aprilia should be very happy with their achievements already this year.

Team-mate Shinya Nakano hasn't fared quite as well as Biaggi. At his best, the former MotoGP rider has been consistently inside the top ten, most notably at Qatar when his impressive top five was somewhat overshadowed by Biaggi's podium.

Injuries haven't helped his cause, but while 2009 is a learning year for Nakano having spent such a long spell of his career on prototype machinery, he will need to be matching Biaggi by the end of the season if he has a chance of retaining what is likely to be a sought after seat come the winter...