Love him or hate him, you have to respect Max Biaggi. The Italian has been a major figure in roadracing since 1989 when, at the age of 18, he made his racing debut.
Just one year later he earned the Italian Sport Production Championship and by 1991 he was competing in the 250cc world championship. Over the ensuing years Biaggi rewrote the record books with the most pole positions, most podium finishes, and four consecutive world titles in the class.
Biaggi stunned the world in his debut in the premier class in 1998. Aboard the irascible two-stroke 500cc Honda he earned pole position, then won the opening race, setting the fastest race lap.
It was a sign of things to come. In 1999 the “Roman Emperor,” as Max had come to be known, made the switch to Yamaha where he would spend four seasons before switching back to Honda with the satellite Sito Pons team in 2004, moving to the Repsol HRC Honda team in 2005.
During his time in the premiere class he continuously comes up against fellow Italian, Valentino Rossi. The two have their share of on-track (and a few off-track) confrontations, which are broadcast to the world, resulting in one of the great racing rivalries.
In a surprise switch in 2007 Biaggi moves from the vaunted MotoGP series to World Superbike, the production-based championship, aboard a Suzuki. As he’s done in the past he astonishes everyone with a first race win at Qatar in his first outing in WSBK.
At the end of the season Biaggi trails eventual championship winner, James Toseland, by only eight points. One thing that everyone seems to notice – Max Biaggi is smiling more in his inaugural WSBK season than he has in his entire career. The Italian is at ease and enjoying himself.
Biaggi switches mounts again, moving to the private Ducati Sterilgarda team for 2008. After a strong start to the championship, finishing second and third respectfully in the double-header event, his season is severely compromised with a crash in Australia. He comes back to score several podiums, finishing the season as first privateer in seventh place.
In 2009, Biaggi is reunited with Aprilia-with whom he has delivered three 250cc World Championships-for the World SBK season aboard the brand new RSV4. What is expected as primarily a development year becomes a showcase for both Biaggi and the new Aprilia V4, winning races, earning eight podiums, and setting a new lap record at Brno.
In 2010, still aboard the Aprilia RSV4, which is now under the sponsorship of Alitalia, Biaggi lays down an impressive display of championship caliber riding, taking double wins at the Portimao, Monza, Miller, and Misano rounds.
A victory in Brno separates Biaggi from the field in terms of points, leaving only Leon Haslam as the one rider capable of catching the Emperor and the Aprilia.
This past weekend, at the penultimate round of the 2010 WSBK season, Max Biaggi secured the World Championship, becoming the first Italian in the series’ 22-year history to win the title.
It has been reported that the newly crowned 2010 World Superbike Champion has resigned with Aprilia to contest the 2011 and 2012 seasons aboard the formidable RSV4.
At 39-years old, Biaggi has proven he’s more than capable of competing with the best riders in the world regardless of age.
In fact, since becoming a father he seems to have only gotten quicker. Personally, he’s one of my favorite riders to watch. So, all hail the Roman Emperor in defending his hard fought title next year.