Latest News

Top 50 Riders of the 1980s (By The Numbers): #50 Corrado Maddii

MX Vice kicks off the Top 50 of the 1980s with the story of a consistent Italian who came heart-breakingly close to becoming his country’s first ever World Motocross Champion.

Words: Ben Rumbold | Images: Jack Burnicle

A fresh-faced, 19-year-old, classically dark-haired Tuscan Corrado Maddii started his GP career at the very dawn of the 125cc class, and besides a one-year excursion into the 500cc battlefield in 1986, stayed in the smallest GP class for his entire 15-year career.  He won an amazing 8 Italian Championships, sweeping 125 & 250 classes for two straight years! Most photos show him with hunched shoulders, a weird-looking face mask, and the elbows firmly in. His forceful style saw him keep the little two-strokes pinned and his career story is one of steadfast consistency – not your average flash-in-the-pan Italian, he was always there or thereabouts at a time when that nation was only just beginning to taste success at world level.  That reliability paid off for his homeland with his services helping Team Italy to finish runners-up at the 1980 & ’82 Trophee des Nations events, as well as two clear wins in the short-lived 125cc-only Coupe des Nations competition.


Born: March 1957

Years Raced: 1976-1990 (Every year in 125cc GPs, apart from 1986 in 500cc GPs)

Machines Raced: Moto Aspes, Gilera, Aprilia, Cagiva, Kawasaki, Honda, Husqvarna

GP Wins: 5          GP Podiums: 33        GP Moto Wins: 8     GP Moto Podiums: 55

Nations Selections: 15 – Twice member of winning Coupe des Nations team (’81-’82)

Championship Medals: 2 x Silver – 1982 & 1984 125cc World Championship, 1 x Bronze – 1985 125cc World Championship

He raced for much of his career on machinery from his homeland, his first two years with the tiny Moto Aspes company (anyone remember them?!), then the bright tricolore colours of the early 80s Aprilia team, inbetween two stints at Gilera, then his best years with the rapid Ferrari-red Cagiva machines. These bikes, as a smitten Mike Healey would testify, were FAST, and suddenly took over from the initially dominant Suzukis to carve up the 125 series between them for a couple of years.

Maddii hit the ground running with points in both motos at his debut GP in 1976 at Launsdorf in Austria, good enough for 5th overall, and scored a 3rd in race one at the Spanish GP towards the end of the year. Then in ’77, the last year for Aspes in GP, he grabbed their one and only GP podium with 2nd overall at the Yugoslavian GP in what is now north-western Croatia.

The next four years were frustrating for Corrado with good consistent results but barely any top scores – he was 5th in points in 1979 without a single top three moto or GP overall score!  The end of 1981 saw a breakthrough though, in his last two rides for Aprilia he was 3rd in the last moto of the year – Spain again! – then won a moto at the Coupe des Nations, helping the Italians win the team event on home hard-pack.

That gave Maddii confidence, and armed with the new factory Gilera he started to emerge from teammate Michele Rinaldi’s shadow, narrowly edging his compatriot by 3 points to 2nd in the 1982 standings behind the all-conquering Suzuki of Eric Geboers. The year also saw his first moto win, remarkably on Swedish sand, narrowly losing the overall to The Kid in the second race.

1983 was a disappointing year for Maddii as the Gilera just was not able to break the Suzuki/Yamaha stronghold on the class, and still that elusive overall win hadn’t come.  At the age of 27, he started 1984 on the new Cagiva machine with the #5 plate and not many eyes were really on him as a title threat. The following years were to be the best, and in a way the worst, of his whole career.

Corrado Maddii slides the Cagiva through the mud.

So Close

With double champ Geboers moving up to 500s, the new threat in the 125s was Dutch, from incoming 250cc star Kees Van Der Ven to rapid 16-year-old sensation Davy Strijbos. They split the first three GPs between them, and Kees won 7 of the first 9 motos. Meanwhile, Maddii had a shocking first round at home with zero points – very rare for him! – and world #2 Rinaldi took 3 GPs out for surgery on his shoulder.

Consistent Corrado crept back into the reckoning as the series hit the hard tracks and then bang! At last, his first overall win on virtually home soil with a stunning double moto win at round 7, the San Marino Grand Prix. The two Dutchmen, hunting for a berm somewhere, scored nothing between them and suddenly Maddii was the series leader!

There was a sting in the tail however, as the returning Rinaldi went on a tear with three double moto wins from the next four GPs. Maddii was 2nd in 5 of those motos however, and won the other GP in Sweden with a 4-2 card.  He went into the final round in Luxembourg with a 30-point lead and only 40 available. Just one 5th-placed finish would have been enough.

In qualifying, Rinaldi & Maddii shared fastest laps, and Corrado looked to have done enough to secure pole and surely his place in history as Italy’s first World Motocross Champion.  The Ettelbruck circuit had a finish area laid out in a way that meant the fastest laps were set if you didn’t worry about taking the next corner.  As Maddii eased confidently towards the pits, desperate 17-year-old Italian Michele Fanton launched his Aprilia across the finish line at full speed and slammed into the cruising Cagiva, breaking both the bike and Corrado’s left leg in the process.

From the stretcher, Corrado comforted the tearfully apologetic Fanton, ten years his junior. Initially Rinaldi stated that he would not race, but got talked round by his team.  Michele scored 1-4 motos, overcoming a first corner crash in race two, to win the title by three points.  His face showed the mixed emotions of the victory which had, in itself, been a long time coming.

In 1985, the Cagiva was just as fast, and Maddii had his best year in terms of GP wins with a stunning home double moto win at Faenza, and two more GP wins by round 5. His trademark consistency eluded him, though, and the title was decided between his teammate Pekka Vehkonen and that man Strijbos. A disillusioned Maddii was 3rd and decided to make a major career change.

At the age of 29 he moved to the big boy class on a KX500, his first non-Italian steed, but in that classic 1986 season dominated by HRC he struggled to make an impression, losing out to Brits Rob Andrews and Mervyn Anstie in a close battle for a top-10 championship place.

It’s the 1988 Irish 125cc GP at Killinchy, and Corrado Maddii leads that year’s Champ Jean-Michel Bayle, both on Honda.

He was still fast on his return to the 125cc class on a private Honda, winning a moto on his way to 4th in 1987. Then for his final flourish he took one of only two race wins away from the dominant Bayle/Strijbos duo in 1988 at Sverepec, on his way to 7th in that series.  From there it petered out and he finished his racing career in 1990, back on Italian machinery with Husqvarna.

He barely ever left the paddock, however, and as a Team Owner he has won five world titles, including a sweet win over old foe Rinaldi’s team as Alessandro Puzar defeated Alessio Chiodi in 1995. The team currently oversees the factory Fantic effort which won a European title in 2021 with Nicholas Lapucci.  Corrado Maddii, now with his son Marco, still proudly pushes Italian talent on Italian machinery. A true legend to kick off our Top 50 of the 1980s!

The Numbers

Corrado Maddii just sneaks into our Top 50 of the 1980s (By The Numbers) as he raced for the entire decade, with the equal-second highest tally of counted races due to his frequent selection for the Nations events. One thing to note – in 1981 he raced at both the Motocross & Trophee des Nations but Italy failed to make the final both times, so they’re not counted here! His consistency was amazing with 30 podiums in the 80s, but “only” 5 GP wins saw him right at the edge of the list.  His winning percentage is matched by another Italian, Giuseppe Andreani, who did less races but also won less, so that rider falls outside the Top 50.  Next time, we continue the Italian flavour with number 49!

1980s Numbers:

GPs counted: 118 – 5 Wins      Nations Events: 11 – 0 Individual Wins

Total: 129 Events, 5 Wins, Winning Percentage 3.9

Season By Season:

Year       Class                      Record                  Champ Pos.      Nations Individual Finish

1980:     125cc GPs    11 races, 0 wins       14th                          11th MXdN & 4th Trophee dN

1981:     125cc GPs    12 races, 0 wins       8th                            2nd Coupe des Nations

1982:     125cc GPs    12 races, 0 wins       2nd                         26th Trophee & 2nd Coupe dN

1983:     125cc GPs    12 races, 0 wins       5th                         18th Trophee & 3rd Coupe dN

1984:     125cc GPs    12 races, 2 wins       2nd                                          –

1985:     125cc GPs    12 races, 3 wins       3rd                         MXdN, 15th 125cc Class

1986:     500cc GPs    11 races, 0 wins       11th                        MXdN, 5th 500cc Class

1987:     125cc GPs    12 races, 0 wins       4th                          MXdN, 3rd 125cc Class

1988:     125cc GPs    12 races, 0 wins       7th                          MXdN, 5th 125cc Class

1989:     125cc GPs    12 races, 0 wins       27th                                         –