With barely time to recover from the shock news that reigning 250 World Champion Marco Simoncelli was testing an Aprilia RSV4 World Superbike machine at Mugello, with an eye to competing in this weekend's WSBK round at Imola, motorcycle racing fans have more to deal with. Aprilia and Simoncelli have confirmed today that Simoncelli will indeed be racing on Sunday at Imola, according to GPOne.com.
The news was almost inevitable: After posting times within six tenths of a second of the times Michel Fabrizio was posting on the factory Xerox Ducati 1098 F09, Simoncelli was always likely to want to race. A conclave this morning of all of the senior figures inside of Aprilia's racing program, including Gigi Dall'Igna and Giampiero Sacchi, as well as Simoncelli's current Gilera team boss Luca Boscoscuro and - rather surprisingly - his team boss next year, Fausto Gresini, made Simoncelli's participation a near certainty. Added to this were Simoncelli's statements to MotoSprint, telling the Italian magazine "When Sacchi offered me the bike on Monday afternoon, I asked for an hour to think it over, but in my heart I decided instantly: I will race!"
After getting off the bike at Mugello, Simoncelli told GPOne.com that he felt pretty comfortable on the bike, much better than the first time he had ridden the Aprilia RSV4 at Valencia at the end of last year. The team had worked on finding a setup that worked for the Italian, and given the times Simoncelli was posting they had obviously found one.
Simoncelli's participation at Imola gives Aprilia an Italian "Dream Team." With both Max Biaggi and Marco Simoncelli, Aprilia will have two 250cc World Champions in the garage, aboard an Italian bike at an Italian World Superbike round. Expectations of results are not too high for Simoncelli, and the Italian will be careful not to get mixed up in the title race at the front. But Simoncelli is not the kind of rider to phone it in, and will surely be pushing for a decent result.
This will be Simoncelli's only opportunity to ride the RSV4, as Imola is the only one of the three remaining World Superbike rounds that does not clash with a 250cc race. And as Simoncelli will be leaving Gilera (like Aprilia, a Piaggio subsidiary) at the end of the season to ride for Gresini Honda in MotoGP, he will not get a chance in World Superbikes again next year.