He didn't win the most races in 2012. He started from pole position just once. He didn't even manage as many podiums as he did during an injury-interrupted 2011 season. And yet, despite falling short in nearly every statistical chart this year, Max Biaggi still emerged top of the most important one…
Indeed, it's remarkable to think that Biaggi heads into retirement with a second WSBK title despite accumulating a fairly meagre sum of five wins and 11 podiums, a tally that puts him behind Marco Melandri in the former category and Tom Sykes in the latter.
However, in a year that saw nine different race winners and 15 riders reach the podium, Biaggi's unending ability to extract the maximum from the Aprilia RSv4 – even on days when he wasn't looking terribly competitive – made the difference… 0.5 points worth of difference, to be exact.
One statistic that did work in Biaggi's favour, however, was his win in the opening race of the season (a good omen…), though he wouldn't see the podium again until round five at Donington Park. In that time, Carlos Checa had briefly nosed ahead before his season spiralled away, but from Assen onwards, Biaggi remained at the head of the standings.
With the masses seeing their challenges blunted by the intense competition lessening the impact of their winnings, a mid-season flurry of wins at Misano (a double) and Aragon had the effect of launching Biaggi into a fairly comfortable position out front.
However, from that point on, Biaggi's concentration appeared to waver somewhat, a couple of unhappy weekends at Brno and Silverstone (where he suffered his first DNF of the year) being followed by a spectacular mistake in Moscow when he wiped out BMW's Leon Haslam.
Coupled to Marco Melandri's devastating run of third-quarter form, Biaggi suddenly found himself demoted to second in the standings and seemingly slipping away from the title fight. A win at the Nurburgring proved the ideal response, though a fall in race two showed the pressure was still on.
With Melandri ruining his own chances with a flurry of errors, Biaggi looked to be back on course for the title win, even when Tom Sykes seemed to be engineering a late charge with his own success at Portimao.
In fact, Biaggi needn't have even stressed too much about the maths such was his advantage heading into the Magny-Cours finale, but the moment he hit the deck in the first race, the calculators were flung out. Suddenly, the pressure was very much on again and even though Biaggi needed a fairly meagre result in race two, his run to sixth place wasn't seen as the most convincing way to secure the WSBK crown…