Rider of the Year 2012: Max Biaggi

December 27, 2012
By Motorcycle USA Staff
Biaggi will work with his mechanics to find a solution to the problems that slowed him in Fridays qualifying session.
Max Biaggi earns Rider of the Year for his impressive performance in World Superbike as well as for his outstanding career, since 2012 marked the end of his tenure in professional motorcycle racing.

Max Biaggi, the rider everyone loved – or loved to hate. After more than 20 years in the saddle as a professional racer, Mad Max finally hung up the leathers this year – going out on top as the 2012 World SBK champ.

The “Roman Emperor” retires with more than two decades of racing under his belt. In that span he finished fifth or better overall every year but one, regardless of the race series or class. Even in the worst showing of Biaggi’s long career, in 2008, he still placed seventh in World Superbike. Keep in mind, these stats disregard the few races Biaggi contested in 1991 in 250cc GP, where he officially landed in 27th overall after finishing two races. To his credit though, he also won the European 250cc championship in 1991, so the year definitely wasn’t a wash. Unlike, say 2006, which definitely was a wash – as Max was drummed out of MotoGP – taking a year off before reinventing himself as a World SBK contender.

In 2012, Biaggi announced his retirement after winning the World Superbike championship for the second time in three years, and by one of the slimmest margins in the history of the sport – a half-point over the surprising Tom Sykes. He had to scratch and claw his way against his tenacious rival Marco Melandri and upstart Sykes, but did what champions do, find a way to win. 

Biaggi has been a dramatic figure throughout most of his professional riding career, notably filling in as The nemesis to wunderkind Valentino Rossi in MotoGP. In the period they raced against one another, Biaggi was one of the only riders to consistently challenge for race wins and provided a compelling narrative storyline that kept fans interested in the sport. The rivalry between Rossi and Biaggi is one of the big elements missing from premier-class motorcycle racing these days, and big personalities will be vital to drawing fans back to the sport. Though he was never able to pull off a championship title in MotoGP, Biaggi was able to take both Yamaha and Honda to top-three overall finishes in the series, and prior to his move to the big-leagues in 1998, gave Aprilia four straight 250cc titles.

While 2012 wasn’t Biaggi’s best season in World Superbike, it was a prime example of what can be achieved when failure is not an option. The final round of the year will likely go down in history as one of the most nail-biting events in the series. After crashing out of the first race, Mad Max had to place fifth or better to clinch the championship. A dull start left him 10th out of the gate, but his resolve and skill allowed him to pass through the pack and get in position to bring the title home. It wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t a blow-out and he didn’t earn the most race wins of all the riders on the grid, but 2012 was one of the most determined efforts Biaggi’s put forth. As far as swan songs to careers go, it was pretty damn cool.

Since 2012 marks the end of his long and successful career, as well as for the fact that he persevered in the top production-based championship of the world to win outright at 41 years of age, Max Biaggi is Motorcycle USA’s Rider of the Year for 2012.