Max Biaggi has spoken of his delight at the chance to ride a MotoGP bike again, following the conclusion of a surprise Pramac Ducati test at Mugello.
Eight months after retiring as the reigning double World Superbike champion - and eight years after leaving MotoGP - the Roman completed his first ever laps with the Desmosedici and Bridgestone tyres between rain showers on Thursday.
Bad weather also brought an early end to Friday's track time when, according to Italian website GPOne.com, Biaggi set a best lap of 1m 52.1s.
For comparison, factory Ducati racer Andrea Dovizioso set a 1m 48.2s on the GP13 'lab' bike at the same test, while the fastest race lap during last Sunday's Italian Grand Prix was a 1m 47.639s by Marc Marquez (Honda).
"I'm back to being a rider for the first time in eight months!" said Biaggi. "It was great because this is a sport that I really love, and after what feels like a long time, it was a great opportunity to ride a MotoGP bike. In the early laps I actually felt that I had really been away for eight years, because a MotoGP bike always has an immediate reaction, and a progression that just doesn't exist in a Superbike."
Biaggi was riding the machine of Ben Spies, left vacant due to the Texan's ongoing shoulder issues. The news of Biaggi's test prompted speculation that he could replace Spies at the forthcoming Catalunya round, but Pramac stated that Ducati test rider Michele Pirro will get the ride. Biaggi said he bonded well with the Pramac team, but also spoke of the outing as a "single test".
"It was also nice because I established a great feeling with the group of people who were assigned to me for this test, just like when I began in Aprilia in 2009. There was a positive feeling between all of us, even though it was just a single test," said the four time 250GP champion and triple MotoGP title runner-up.
"I'd like to thank first Ducati, and also team Pramac for this opportunity. We were rather unfortunate because out of two days available we more or less only had one due to the rain, but it's better than nothing. We didn't do any damage and we had some good fun!"
41-year-old Biaggi raced in grand prix from 1992-2005, spending his eight premier-class seasons on Honda and Yamaha machinery. After a major rift with Honda, the Roman sat out the whole of 2006 before moving to WSBK the following year.
"The first day was spent with Max trying to find out as much as possible about the bike because, as we said, after eight years of not riding a MotoGP bike, it was clear that his memories were from a long time back!" said Pramac Racing team manager Francesco Guidotti.
"Things have changed a lot since then, in particular the tyres, but probably the carbon brakes were what slowed him down the most in his gaining overall confidence in the bike.
"On the second day, however, we could see an improvement right from the first time he went out; maybe during the night he reflected on what had happened the previous morning, as he hadn't ridden in the afternoon due to the bad weather.
"I think it was great for him to test with us, and for us it was a great pleasure to have him in the box again!"