Max Biaggi may have taken the Aprilia RSV4 to race victory in its very first World Superbike season, plus four other podiums to sit fifth in the championship, but the Roman believes the bike needs a 'big step' in performance to be a 2010 title contender.
Biaggi starts the final three rounds of 2009 still in with a slim mathematical chance of the crown, sitting 140 points behind Ben Spies with a maximum of 150 points still available.
A more realistic target will be to try and bridge the 20 point gap to Jonathan Rea (Ten Kate Honda) and possibly the 65 point deficit to third-placed Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox).
"Up until now we have achieved much more than we thought we would, so in Aprilia there's a lot of satisfaction both for the team and the rider,” Biaggi told the official World Superbike website.
“The difficult part will be next year when Gigi Dall'Igna and his group of engineers will have to make a big step forward performance-wise for our RSV4 so that we can fight for the title right from the start,” he warned.
The next round of the series at Imola will mark the third and final event of the season on home Italian asphalt for Biaggi and Aprilia.
But having taken just one top-nine finish at the Monza and Misano events, it is perhaps unsurprising that the former MotoGP star tips the following French and Portuguese rounds as his best possibility for further success.
"As everyone knows, for us in the first year it's vital to accumulate data to have a solid base for 2010,” said Max. “Maybe we can go well at Magny-Cours or Portimao, but for the moment it's difficult to say."
Barring an upset, Aprilia looks set to finish fourth in the 2009 Manufacturers' title, behind Ducati, Yamaha and Honda, but ahead of Suzuki, BMW and Kawasaki.
Biaggi's team-mate Shinya Nakano sits 13th in the championship after an injury-interrupted season.