As expected, Max Biaggi will definitely return to Aprilia in 2009 to front their new World Superbike effort after signing a two-year deal.
Although rumours had circulated that a deal was on the verge of being announced, only now has it been confirmed by Aprilia themselves, who describe Biaggi as their first choice rider from the outset.
Biaggi, who is believed to have been snubbed by Ducati Xerox in favour of Noriyuki Haga, will make the switch from the Sterilgarda Ducati team, with whom he has recorded several podiums, although he remains winless with the satellite Italian team.
Announced at this weekend's Vallelunga World Superbike round, close to Biaggi's home city of Rome, Aprilia return to World Superbikes in a bid to rekindle the form that once made them one of the most formidable forces in motorcycle racing.
Biaggi was key to that success, winning three of his four 250GP titles with the brand during the mid-1990s, success both he and the team are eager to emulate in World Superbikes.
"Biaggi was our number one choice, I'm delighted to have him back with us," said Leo Francesco Mercanti, Director of Product Development and Sporting Activities of the Piaggio Group. "Max is a rider who has written a number of important chapters in Aprilia's racing history.
"He was involved in the company's first major triumphs, and the seasons of Aprilia domination, all of which enabled this young company to join the 'greats' of motorcycle racing. Today, with Biaggi and the Aprilia RSV4 we begin a new challenge. We are convinced that with him, we will be able to put to the best possible use all of our passion, our expertise and desire to win."
Together with BMW, Aprilia will boost the number of official manufacturer entries in next season's World Superbike Championship to seven, and with KTM rumoured to be considering a move in 2010, the series is certainly in rude health.
Meanwhile, there is no word on who will partner Biaggi. Currently, Alex Hofmann has been conducting testing duties, although Roberto Rolfo, who will definitely not be racing for Honda Althea next season, has been trialling the bike recently.
Aprilia last competed in World Superbikes in 2002, by which point they had amassed eight wins.
Although, unlike fellow Italian manufacturer Ducati, Aprilia has never won the World Superbike or MotoGP World Championship, it has won 31 world titles in the smaller GP classes.