As a child, Max Papis (born on October 3, 1969 in Como, Italy) dreamed of racing in Formula 1. At age 12, he started karting and quickly established himself as a winner; he was soon driving on the Italian National Karting Team and competing in the European and World Championships. In his late teens, he moved up to cars, racing in the Italian Formula 3 Championship from 1989 to ’92 and, in ’93 and ’94, Formula 3000. He tested for a couple of Formula 1 teams before landing a race seat with the Arrows Grand Prix team for the 1995 season.
Papis raced in seven Grands Prix that year, his best result being seventh in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. But his time in the aptly named “Piranha Club” of F1 was short, and at the end of his rookie year the 26-year-old driver thought his racing career, his lifelong dream, was over.
Then Ferrari threw him a lifeline, in the form of a 333 SP drive at the 24 Hours of Daytona. That 1996 race, which saw Papis famously dubbed “Mad Max,” opened up a whole new world. He soon moved to America, where he found success in not only in prototypes but in GT racing, IndyCar, Champ Car and NASCAR. Among other victories, he won the 24 Hours of Daytona (2002) and the Grand-Am Championship (2004) and twice scored class wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring (2004, 2007). Throughout it all, he continued to race Prancing Horses.
Papis spoke with FORZA about his love of Ferrari, his long racing career and that famous nickname from his farm in North Carolina.