When Schumi was testing the Aprilia Sbk in secret: the exclusive photos on Biaggi’s bike

Twelve years ago a super secret test that Schumi did on the Aprilia Rsv4 Sbk in Valencia, when the Italian manufacturer was testing some modifications on Biaggi’s bike. The exclusive photos

Manuele Cecconi

Valencia, June 2009. An Aprilia Rsv4 is running on the track, the total weapon that the Venetian manufacturer has just made its World Superbike debut with Max Biaggi in the saddle. The bike, without sponsors and brands on the fairings, whizzes fast through the curves of the Ricardo Tormo, with the scream of the V4 from Noale to act as a symphony. It is precisely the Corsair, intent on trying any news in view of the second part of the SBK World Championship? No, the mysterious rider who rattles off one gear after another wears a white and red overalls, but above all a helmet that any motoring enthusiast could recognize among a thousand: on board the black Aprilia there is none other than the seven-time Formula One champion 1 Michael Schumacher. But what is Schumi doing on an official Rsv4?

TEST TEAM aprilia IN PISTA

Let’s go in order. The RSV4 made its debut a few months earlier in WSBK: the first results are excellent, Biaggi is satisfied and the bike seems to be promising very well. But to aim for victory and be able to undermine Ducati and Yamaha, there is still work to be done. Here then is that the test team from Noale is called to work overtime, to definitively bridge the gap with the competition and bring to full maturity a project already born under a lucky star. So in June, immediately after the American round of Miller Park, the guys from the test team fly to Valencia together with the German test driver Alex Hofmann, to try to give Biaggi and Nakano the necessary material to make the expected leap in quality.

HEY, BUT THERE’S FOAMS!

On the circuit there is also a truck with the Ktm insignia, and in fact the Rsv4 of the ex-MotoGP is alternated with an Austrian twin-cylinder that resumes the path of the pits just when the Aprilia “forklift” returns to the track. But in the paddock the rumors took little to circulate, also because the name of the very fast amateur is very high-sounding: Michael Schumacher was also filming in Valencia that day. The ace of Ferrari, who after his (first) retirement was able to give free rein to his passion for two wheels, is experiencing a sort of second youth on the saddle of motorcycles, and in recent months he never misses an opportunity to get behind the controls of every racing car that passes through his hands: Ktm, Honda, Yamaha, Ducati … in short, after having tried the Ducati Desmosedici by Stoner in November 2007, the F1 multiple champion seems to have taken a liking to it.

CRAZY IDEA

Initially, among the men of the Aprilia test team, only a few gave credit to the indiscretion. But when the German, driven by curiosity, peeps into the Noale garage, even the most skeptical must change their minds: like the most common of fans, Schumi asks questions, looks at the Rsv4, analyzes the technical details and tries to steal some secrets by talking to the compatriot Hofmann. And so, between one joke and another, someone throws the bomb: “But what if we let him try the bike?”. This is how the crazy idea of ​​getting Michael on Alex’s bike, the Rsv4 that the test team uses to develop the super-official material, was born between the serious and the facetious. Nothing planned or organized, but the curiosity of the boys is great and the German certainly does not lack the desire to take a few laps on the Venetian four-cylinder.

SECRET TEST

And what about the leaders? Between authorizations, discharges of responsibility and secrecy obligations, the thing would take a long time, or more likely it would risk jumping. And then you do not tell him, or rather it is done after the fact. So Schumi, wearing a leather suit and helmet on, gets on bike number 2, the one with the rough fairings and no number plate. On the windshield, to identify the second of the Rsv4 “prototype”, only the writing Heidi and the photo of Klum, the German supermodel whose name Hofmann uses to baptize bike no.2. Michael does about ten laps, without a stopwatch, and when he returns to the pit lane he is radiant: he liked the Aprilia a lot, and although no one has taken the times, his smile speaks more than a telemetry.

TAKE IT FOR YOURSELF

In the evening, once things are done, the episode is told to the direct superiors of Aprilia Racing. And the curiosity also arrives: “Are you crazy ?! If this thing comes out, they’ll kill us! ” Water in the mouth, then: outside the test team no one must know, least of all the high grades. But in the end everything went well, Schumi was bewitched by the RSV4 and the guys on the team had the honor of listening to the comments of a very, very special guest.

LUCKY OUT PROGRAM

Now, 12 years later, unpublished photos of that super-secret test emerge from some drawer, precious memories of a day of passion. Because every now and then, after all, you can also derogate from the protocols and indulge in some electrifying over-the-top programs, even if there are 7 F1 World Championships or dozens of titles in motorcycling on the bulletin board. But the most magical thing, even if it is certainly a lucky circumstance, is that just a few weeks after that top secret test Biaggi won in Brno, in the Czech Republic, giving Aprilia its first RSV4 victory: the inaugural success for a simply amazing combination. And while the celebration was taking place in Noale, in Kerpen there was a gentleman who was giggling under his mustache …

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When Schumi was testing the Aprilia Sbk in secret: the exclusive photos on Biaggi’s bike

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