The chances of young Max Papis making it to the top of the racing world were slim. Coming from a small village in Northern Italy, he describes those chances as “one in a million.” Knowing that goes a long way toward understanding the appreciation, passion and support of grassroots racers that the former Indy car, NASCAR and sports car driver and founder of Max Papis Innovations demonstrates with actions like his support for the GT3 Challenge.
“I came from very little and worked really hard,” says Papis. “When I started MPI – although we started working with the best of the best like Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jr. – I wanted to make sure all of the safety and technology that we were developing for the top tiers of the sport was available to the same guy that was Max when I was 14, 15, 16 … the guy that enjoyed going racing at his local racetrack.”
MPI makes racing steering wheels and related items. While comfort and grip – elements developed with the help of the sport’s top drivers – are key to the company’s products, the true aim is to treat the steering wheel as a safety device with the same consideration as the seat or belts. First, the wheels are designed to deform in the case of an impact; second, Papis says that just as belts have a lifespan, so do steering wheels. Mazda sells one of MPI’s wheels, the same wheel used in the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car, and MPI is offering wheels to GT3 Challenge race winners.