Occasionally outspoken, usually charismatic, always passionate, Max Biaggi tends to divide opinion in the World Superbike paddock, but few can deny he was a star performer this season.

Regardless of its own rich motorcycling history, Biaggi's illustrious past and the suggestions the RSV-4 was a racing bike first, production bike second, Aprilia went well beyond expectations in 2009.

Having announced its return to WSBK competition in 2007, Aprilia embarked on a fairly low-profile period of development before finally making its public debut towards the end of last year. With the lap times varying wildly as the start of the season approached, few were any the wiser as to whether the RSV-4 would be competitive.

Biaggi swiftly answered those questions at the opening round, qualifying a remarkable second on the grid and only being denied a podium by a final lap error. Making amends in Qatar with a brace of third place finishes, the Biaggi-Aprilia pair up seemed to be a match made in heaven.

While Biaggi would have to wait until Donington Park to climb onto the rostrum again, it was a result that would unleash the RSV-4's true potential, the Roman going on to claim a stunning victory at Brno - the manufacturer's first at this level in eight years - and a further five podiums.

Much like Jonathan Rea - whom Biaggi beat by just four points in the fight for fourth overall -, Biaggi was muscling his way up the World Superbike hierarchy as the season wore on to eventually be considered a regular victory threat.

With Biaggi seemingly enjoying his racing again, he has plenty of reason to be excited about the RSV-4's potential. Indeed, Aprilia arrived at nearly every circuit on the back foot as they established their data from scratch, yet Biaggi was more often than not a front-runner by qualifying.

Furthermore, the apparent speed advantage of the compact bike has been noted, while its remarkable reliability (Biaggi suffered just one DNF) suggests Aprilia have struck a perfect balance between performance and durability.

Save for some handling and braking qualms, Aprilia are armed with a potent package - and Biaggi seems exactly the right man to get the most from it.

Statistics:

Team: Aprilia Racing Bike: Aprilia RSV-4

Championship position: 4th Points: 319

Race starts: 28 Pole positions: 0 Victories: 1 Podiums: 9 Best results: 1st (Brno) Points finishes: 26

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2008: 8th

Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009:

4 - Jonathan Rea 5 - Leon Haslam 6 - Michel Fabrizio 7 - Regis Laconi 8 - Jakub Smrz 9 - Troy Corser 10 - Shane Byrne