Batman needs The Joker. The Beatles needed The Rolling Stones. For years, Max Biaggi fulfilled that villain role for fan favorite and heir apparent Valentino Rossi. For some, those heated exchanges with The Doctor, both on and off the track, defined Mad Max’s 500cc/MotoGP career. However, his days in the premier class only represent a small portion of Biaggi’s contribution to the sport.
Prior to his tenure in the top category, Biaggi dominated the 250cc Grand Prix series. His early years in the intermediate class were marked by steady progression, but Biaggi shot to the front of the pack when he joined the Chesterfield Aprilia team in 1994. Aboard the Aprilia RSV250, the Italian rider led the Italian marque to three consecutive 250cc Grand Prix titles. Despite that success, Biaggi switched to the Marlboro Kanemoto team in 1997. The change of scenery also came with a change of machinery, but he still secured his fourth-consecutive 250cc championship with the Honda NSR250.
After ruling the 250 class for so long, the Roman Emperor graduated to the 500cc Grand Prix series with the Marlboro Kanemoto team in 1998. He immediately made an impact on the championship by seizing pole position, recording the fastest lap, and winning his first race in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Biaggi followed up that impressive debut with another win in the Czech Republic, and finished his first season in second place behind Mick Doohan.
Even with his early success, Biaggi sprung for a factory seat with the Marlboro Yamaha team for the 1999 season. His first encounters with Valentino Rossi would take place during this period, resulting in some of the best battles of the era. After four years with Yamaha and MotoGP transitioning into the four-stroke era, Biaggi returned to Honda in 2003. Unfortunately, he couldn’t match the results from earlier in his career with the Camel or Repsol Honda squads and departed the Grand Prix paddock after the 2005 season.
Following a one-year sabbatical, Biaggi debuted in the Superbike World Championship (WSBK) with the Alstare Suzuki team. He took the checkered flag in his first race at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, making him the only rider to win their first race in both WSBK and MotoGP. Biaggi had bigger goals in mind, though, and captured the WSBK title in 2010 and 2012 with Aprilia. Mad Max finally hung up his leathers after the 2015 WSBK season, but he is still a fixture in the Grand Prix paddock.
Thanks to his years of success with Aprilia, he continues to support the brand and its MotoGP outfit. The six-time world champ also owns his own successful Moto3 race squad with the Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max Racing Team. With such a stacked resume, it’s no wonder Biaggi is the latest MotoGP Legend inductee. He may have been cast as the villain for years, but motorcycle racing always needed Max Biaggi.