If there is any manufacturer that is guilty of having to be dragged into roadracing it is certainly Aprilia.
Aprilia's '90s GP program featured charismatic riders like Valentino Rossi, Loris Capirossi and Max Biaggi winning races and championships but it's a slightly obscure rider that many feel is responsible for Aprilia's involvement in racing.
As a manufacturer, Aprilia made its name by out-sourcing components long before the term "out-sourcing" became well known. While not wholly, the Beggio family (Aprilia's longtime ownership) had largely purchased parts from component suppliers or other manufacturers and used them to build scooters and off-road motorcycles in the 1980s. They had very little interest in building their own foundry, discovering how much fun it is to make your own fork tubes in a million different sizes and lengths.
By the same token, Aprilia had very little, if any, interest in roadracing. Touring the modern-day, F1-like Aprilia race shop it's difficult to get your head around the fact that basically one man simply refused to take no for an answer on the subject of Aprilia racing Grand Prix and it was because of that steadfastness that Aprilia can celebrate a successful racing history today.
In the mid-1980s Loris Reggiani was a very fast young Italian rider doing battle in the 125 and 250 ranks. The popular story is that during the 1984 season Reggiani essentially dragged his Kawasaki 250 into an Aprilia workshop area and squatted there, refusing to leave. He started peppering them with broad questions: It wouldn't be hard to make our own chassis, would it? Couldn't a race bike be the basis of some streetbikes you could sell? What if we used a Rotax engine? The Aprilia people tolerated both his questions and his Kawasaki race bike. Later, with racer and engineer Michele Verrini, many of these ideas came to successful fruition.
Success has a million fathers and this is certainly true of Aprilia's long roadrace history. Engineer Jan Witteveen, Capirossi, Biaggi and, of course, Rossi get a great deal of credit for Aprilia's success when the stories are written today, most of it deservedly so.
But it's questionable how much of that success would have actually happened, were it not for that squatter Reggiani and his battered Kawasaki 250.