A Return to Form for Max Biaggi
Friday, April 15, 2011
A weekend involving a face-slap means trouble, of one sort or another. And Max Biaggi
ran into trouble at Donington for Round 2 of his SBK title defense. Most notable at the British circuit was the off-track exchange with fellow ex-GP colleague Marco Melandri, resulting in the aforementioned slap. The Roman’s on-track meltdown, however, was most worrying for the reigning champion. This weekend’s action at Assen will be a critical challenge for Biaggi to return to form.
Now you listen here youngin'...
First, there’s the matter of the slap to take care of. By now a footnote in the cannon of Biaggi theatrics, the slapping incident occurred when Melandri was upset over the Aprilia ace spoiling his flying lap during Superpole – with accusations of Max mucking with the lines of other riders too. Max further mucked things up outside Melandri’s garage when during a verbal exchange he delivered the pair of firm pats to the cheek. It was the type of contact reserved for a stern father lecturing his snotty adolescent. (View the encounter in the embedded YouTube clip below to judge for yourself.)
Even without reckoning the face-slap, Biaggi’s performance at Donington was erratic and off kilter. His lackluster seventh-place result in Race 1 was filled with tentative moves and mistakes – nothing like the confident, dominating form of 2010. It degenerated from there, with Race 2 ruined before it began when Biaggi badly jumped the start. Once again, the Italian complicated matters by ignoring the subsequent ride-thru penalty, earning him a black-flag disqualification. Had The Emperor served his penalty there was at least a shot of reclaiming some valuable points.
The Donington round didn’t mesh with Biaggi’s overall success during his now five-year SBK
tenure. Considering the operatic drama affixed to the Italian in Grand Prix, his behavior in WSB has been relatively mellow.
Donington proved otherwise. The Melandri slap recalls the Biaggi of old, who drew Rossi into alleged fisticuffs off-camera in 2001 (perhaps Melandri’s reaction at Donington would have been less composed had there not been cameras rolling just feet away). That 2001 incident with Rossi, famously featured in the documentary Faster, served as a plot driving clash of GP characters – Rossi the hero vs. Max the villain. Rossi, of course, conquered while Max was defeated, eventually drubbed out of MotoGP altogether.
That melodramatic GP caricature of Biaggi, though entertaining, always seemed too one dimensional – all the more so after his success in SBK. Then again, that was before Max took up face slapping…
Biaggi the anti-hero was back, at least for one round, and it won’t make the racing any less interesting. Two Italians who despise each other, both racing for the title, the Melandri vs. Biaggi feud holds great promise as the SBK season simmers along.
Follow the World Superbike races at Assen this weekend at Motorcycle-USA.com. And don’t forget to make your picks in Fantasy Superbike.
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