Aprilia rider standings after 7 rounds, 14 races

Max Biaggi, Aprilia Alitalia - 2nd Leon Camier, Aprilia Alitalia - 5th Noriyuki Haga - PATA Aprilia - 9th

Given the fairly sizeable advantage Max Biaggi commanded at the end of the his 2010 World Superbike title-winning season, it's easy to forget that things were a lot closer in the fight for the crown at this stage last year.

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Indeed, given the way he calmly stretched away during the second-half of the 2010 season, many expected Biaggi to pick up where he left off this year. As it happens, it took until race two at Aragon - technically the first race of the second-half of the season - to remind himself what the winners' champagne tasted like.

Still ultra-consistent at every venue, Biaggi hasn't once been off the pace, as represented by his eight second place finishes in 14 races. However, it's been peppered with errors seemingly brought about under pressure and not exactly befitting of a reigning champion.

His fracas with Marco Melandri at Donington Park, his disqualification from race two at the same venue for not adhering to a black flag, his penalty whilst leading at Monza and his crash at Miller Motorsports Park are extraordinary for not only their nature, but also the fact it hasn't even derailed his title aspirations.

Indeed, 43 points is not an easy margin to break, but with six rounds still remaining, provided Biaggi gets his head down and cuts out the errors, he is a very intimidating chaser for Carlos Checa.

On the other side of the garage, things have been similarly eventful for Leon Camier, who despite problems ranging from the self-inflicted to the unfortunate, is still impressing in his sophomore year.

Beginning the season with a debilitating illness that raised question marks as to whether 2011 would be a write-off altogether, a marvellous round two podium at Donington Park proved he has remarkable fighting spirit.

As Camier's fitness returns, results have been good, albeit with the feeling they should be better. Qualifying has been a particular bugbear, with Camier struggling to make a single lap count, though it does highlight some fine rides through the field. If anything, Camier has probably produced the largest number of overtakes this season...

Beyond his health problems, crashes - most notably at Monza - and persistent technical issues have done their utmost to leave Camier disheartened, but he keeps bouncing back, particularly with great results in the USA and Spain. Indeed, with three podiums to his name, Camier is behind just the top three in terms of rostrums, but it must now be tempered with some consistency.

Left unemployed by Ducati's decision to step out of WSBKs, Noriyuki Haga landed an Aprilia RSV-4 for 2011 under the PATA Racing banner - an amalgamation of DFX and BRC Racing.

Though a challenge for that elusive title wasn't necessarily expected - despite his own ambitious aspirations -, Haga has been solid aboard the bike, with recent results - including a podium at Misano - indicating that the Japanese rider isn't done with WSBK just yet.

Whether it's enough to get him into a top factory ride for 2012 remains to be seen, but many accept a grid without Haga - whether he is first of 18th - is always going to be less entertaining.