A month after the World Superbike series wrapped up for 2012, Massimiliano “Max” Biaggi announced his retirement from the sport of motorcycle racing, concluding an epic career that spanned more than 20 years. Biaggi cut his teeth in the 250cc Grand Prix paddock during the two-stroke heyday, when the 500cc grid included names like Rainey, Schwantz, Doohan, Lawson, and Gardner.
Biaggi’s first WSBK victory at Qatar in 2007 along with his 1998 500cc debut win at Suzuka
“Mad Max” won his first 250cc GP at Kyalami, South Africa, during the final race of his first full season in 1992. After switching to Honda in 1993 and finishing fourth in the World Championship, Biaggi re-joined Aprilia for the 1994 season and proceeded to dominate the 250cc grid in a way that has not been seen since. He won three consecutive titles with Aprilia from 1994 to 1996, then switched back to Honda to win the 1997 crown.
In 1998 Biaggi graduated to 500s and, riding a Kanemoto Honda, won the first race of the season at Suzuka, Japan, eventually ending his rookie season runner-up to Mick Doohan. Biaggi moved the next year to Yamaha, finishing fourth, third, and second respectively in the 1999, 2000, and 2001 500cc World Championships.
As it turned out, his years on Yamaha’s 500cc GP bike would offer his best chance at winning a premier-class world championship. Despite valiant effort on Yamaha’s then-new four-stroke, 990cc YZR-M1 MotoGP bike in 2002, and three years on Honda’s dominant RC211V from 2003 to ‘05, Biaggi’s GP results declined until he lost his ride to a wee newcomer named Dani Pedrosa in 2006.
The mercurial Biaggi was unable to find a seat for 2006 but landed in World Superbike for 2007. After two somewhat forgettable years, first on a Corona Suzuki and then on a satellite Ducati 1098R, he was reunited with the brand that launched his career. Nearly 20 years after his debut on an RSW250, Biaggi returned to Aprilia to campaign its new RSV4. He would finish fourth his first season aboard the powerful RSV, but in 2010 gave Aprilia its first World Superbike title. For that matter, he would also be the first Italian WSBK champ—ironic considering Ducati’s long dominance of the series. In 2012, Max beat Kawasaki-mounted Tom Sykes to take his second WSBK title by just half a point, allowing him to exit the world stage a true champion.