Max Biaggi has taken a surprise lead in the 2012 World Superbike Championship standings after the third round of the season at Assen, despite spending much of the weekend struggling for overall competitiveness.
The Italian has a good record of results around the Dutch circuit aboard the Aprilia RSV-4, but he gave himself a task to get onto the podium after missing the Superpole cut and lining up 17th on the grid.
Hoping to make gains over a race distance, Biaggi made only minor progress as he watched the lead group escape away from him, the Italian classified only 13th when the red flag was deployed due to the rain.
However, when the race was restarted in wet conditions, Biaggi was transformed into a front runner, the 2010 champion peaking in third place before eventually being shuffled back to fourth at the chequered flag, a positive result given the modest beginnings.
Keen to see an improvement in race two, Biaggi's dry form eluded him again and he could only rise as high as eighth in a race of fairly high attrition.
Nonetheless, with key title rivals Carlos Checa
and Tom Sykes failing to take advantage of Biaggi's off-form, his solid finishes have actually seen him leapfrog the former to assume a slender one point advantage at the top of the overall table.
Despite this, Biaggi was disappointed with his pace as a whole and though he admits that he was relatively fortunate at Assen, he cannot afford another uncompetitive weekend in the coming rounds.
“Despite our provisional leadership we can't really be euphoric,” he said. “I struggled throughout the whole weekend and the two races were difficult as well. When you're aiming for the world championship you have to set your sights on the biggest prize.
“Results are important but they can't become a constant. In any case, we are leaving Holland with some heavy spoils in points, and considering the difficulties we had this weekend, we can't complain.
“However, working to solve the problems that slowed us down is of utmost importance in order to come back and fight in the positions that count from here on out.”