Max Biaggi says that 'even the most optimistic of fans couldn't have predicted' Aprilia's outstanding return to the World Superbike Championship as he sealed fourth position overall during the Portimao season finale.
After an eight-year absence from the premier Superbike series, Aprilia's long-awaited return with the pioneering RSV-4 saw Biaggi challenge at the front of the field from the off, eventually culminating in one win at Brno and a further eight podiums.
Heading into the final round needing to just finish ahead of Jonathan Rea to claim fourth in the overall standings, although he was gifted the position when the Northern Irishman made a crucial mistake that dropped him from second to third in the final race, Biaggi was thrilled to cling on.
Indeed, having been hampered by a 'lack of strength' due to an accident in free practice, Biaggi was satisfied to come away from Portugal with a third and sixth place finish.
“We had some small problems this weekend,” said Biaggi, “but I drove over them. I'm satisfied because I'm still hurting from my practice fall and at the beginning of the race I didn't know if I would manage to make it to the end.
“I was fine at the beginning, but during the final laps, I lost my strength. I managed to hold on to third place just the same, though, which I believe is an excellent result, considering my physical condition.
“Race two was rough," he added. “We made some changes to the bike after Race 1 and they didn't help us so it was really a shame because we could have had a good result.
“I started off well and I tried to stay in the lead group, but it was really difficult, the problems from the first race were accentuated and I made a lot of errors. Then, my physical condition made the situation worse because in order to try to recover, I had to make a lot more effort.
With Aprilia originally planning to use 2009 as a development year for the RSV-4, Biaggi admits the scale of its success – which also saw the brand finish ahead of Suzuki in the manufacturer standings – has gone far beyond what anybody had expected.
“In any case, I'm very happy because I managed to hold on to fourth place in the overall rankings, which is an excellent result, both for me and for Aprilia during this debut year. Together we reached a goal that even the most optimistic of fans couldn't have predicted."