Whilst many still celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, legendary motorcycle racer Max Biaggi and a special contingent from the Aprilia factory racing division are hard at work at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC). Biaggi and the Aprilia technicians are in Malaysia for a scheduledfour-day testing programme from 20 to 23 July 2015 ahead of Biaggi’s highly anticipated wildcard appearance racing for SIC in the upcoming eni FIM Superbike World Championship 2015 (WSBK) Malaysian Round happening from 31 July to 2 August.
Known as ‘The Roman Emperor’ amongst his legion of fans, 44-year-old Biaggi is astride the special SIC-liveried Aprilia RSV4 SBK machine, clocking up crucial mileage around the circuit, supported by the Aprilia race technicians. This special test session is designed to allow Biaggi the chance to familiarise himself with the track astride an SBK spec race bike – something he has not done before. Despite having raced at Sepang during his stint in MotoGP, Biaggi has not mastered the 5.5km-long course on a production-based WSBK machine, having retired from the sport in 2012 where he clinched his last WSBK world title. WSBK only returned to Malaysia in 2014 when SIC debuted the race at the circuit.
After completing his first day, Biaggi appeared delighted with the bike and the track. “I like this track, it is one of my favourites. To have the opportunity to come back here is very pleasing and motivating,” commented Biaggi post-test. The Roman Emperor is no stranger to Malaysia, having not only raced at Sepang with MotoGP, but also at the legendary Batu Tiga Speedway Circuit of Shah Alam as well. Biaggi further commented, “I find the track (Sepang) very similar to before, only some of the braking points and the rougher tarmac on the straight are different. Other than that, the track is the same and I am very pleased to be back here.”
The returning Biaggi also noted that things are not as easy as it seems. Since his retirement, the sport has changed especially in terms of regulations surrounding bike performance. “This new bike is a little bit harder to ride than before, and is a little bit slower than the bike I used back in 2012. There are more standard production components like the pistons and conrods, so there is a little bit less power,” explained the Roman. Having observed the sport as a commentator, not forgetting his recent wildcard entry in Misano, Italy last month, Biaggi also noted the strong challenges from the grid’s strongest players Kawasaki and Ducati.
Despite the obvious challenges, Biaggi remains optimistic about his upcoming appearance, promising fans will have something to look forward to. “I hope having me back here will help in bringing more people to come for the Superbike race weekend here next week. I am excited for the race, and I am working hard to prepare because I want to put on a good show for the people. I hope many can come and join me here on 2 August.” Biaggi further shared his intention to finish in a higher position than what he achieved in his first wildcard appearance at Misano, Italy last month where he finished both races in a respectable sixth place.
On the possibility of making a full-time return to racing in WSBK, Biaggi was a little bit coy on the subject. “I never thought about this. At the moment, my mind was set already since the end of last year to do two races in 2015. And I was anxiously waiting to race here in Sepang much more than Misano. What I can say is let’s finish the race in hopefully the best position possible that I can do.” Interestingly, Biaggi further added, “If there is a tremendously strong calling from the fans for me to return, then maybe I will consider coming back here. But for now, I want to finish this upcoming race first.”
Round 10 of the World Superbike Championship and its supporting World Supersport Championship will be held next in Sepang from July 31 until August 2. Apart from that, the race weekend will also feature the Shell Advance Asia Talent Cup and second round of the new Malaysia Superbike Championship(MSC), which features top riders from Malaysia and its neighbouring countries.
Biaggi fans are encouraged to grab tickets for the Max Biaggi Tribune area at the Main Grandstand’s Diamond zone, which will be set up with an exclusive Max flag, for only RM153.70, inclusive of GST. Other WSBK tickets are available from as low as RM84.80 inclusive of GST for seats at the K1 Grandstand, which provides a perfect view of Turns 6, 7, 8 and 9 as well as Turn 15 and the entry on the front straight while Main Grandstand tickets are available at RM137.80, inclusive of GST.
For maximum enjoyment of the event, fans are recommended to purchase the Paddock Access tickets, which will allow fans to be up close with the riders at the paddock, catch the race from the rooftop of the Pit Building andenjoy a close behind-the-scenes view of the activities within the paddock. The paddock passes are offered at RM530. Fans also have the option of purchasing various ticket packages, which combine exclusive event merchandise with the ticket.
Tickets can be purchased on site at the circuit or via internet at www.sepangcircuit.com. Fans can also call the SIC TICKET HOTLINE at 603-87782222 to get their tickets.