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Daytona: Season opener preview

MLADIN GOING FOR SIXTH AMA SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP New teams and riders add intrigue to Daytona Superbike field PICKERINGTON, Ohio (March 3, 2005) -- For the first 27 years of AMA Superbike racing no rider could crack the three-championship ...

MLADIN GOING FOR SIXTH AMA SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP
New teams and riders add intrigue to Daytona Superbike field

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (March 3, 2005) -- For the first 27 years of AMA Superbike racing no rider could crack the three-championship barrier. As the 2005 AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited takes the green flag on Saturday, March 12, at Daytona International Speedway, Aussie racing sensation Mat Mladin embarks on his quest to win an unprecedented sixth title.

Mladin, the defending champ and Daytona Superbike winner who turns 33 on Thursday of Bike Week, is the pre-season favorite on his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000. This year Mladin will face a deep Superbike field. Eighteen factory or factory-backed riders are slated to compete at Daytona, in addition to a number of very good privateer entries.

Mladin turned in another record-setting season in 2004. He tallied eight victories in the 18-race championship and finished the season tied with Miguel Duhamel atop the all-time AMA Superbike wins list with 32-career victories. He hopes to carry that momentum into the 2005 season. He was the fastest rider in the first two days of pre-season Daytona tire testing before suffering a crash and breaking his left ankle. In spite of the accident Mladin was positive about his off-season.

"Aside from this incident, the opening two days of the test were very promising for us," said the three-time Daytona Superbike winner. "The new Suzuki GSX-R1000 was very good and was quick through the speed trap there, so it's all shaping up very nicely in that regard at present. We were quickest at the end of each day, which is always good. As with any of these tests where you are preparing a new bike there are lots of things to work through and so far so good."

Mladin will come to Daytona this year not only as a rider, but a team owner as well. Mladin Motorsports is backing fellow Australian Marty Craggill, a former Australian Superbike champ, and the team will debut at Daytona.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to race in the United States for the 2005 season", said Craggill. "To be associated with Mat Mladin Motorsports for the up coming season has really given me a boost, and I'm excited to be racing the new for 2005, Suzuki GSX-R1000."

Neil Hodgson, a former World Superbike Champion from Great Britain, is coming to America to contest the AMA series on the Parts Unlimited Ducati Austin squad as teammate to Eric Bostrom. Hodgson is the highest profile rider in years to move from the world championships to AMA Superbike racing. The colorful Brit is hoping to give Ducati its first Daytona Superbike win in 28 years. Cook Neilson, Cycle Magazine editor at the time, rode a Ducati to victory in the 1977 race.

"I would like to make history and be the first rider ever to have won the British and World Superbike Championships and the AMA Championship," Hodgson said. "Being back on the Ducati 999 is going to be so natural for me." Hodgson rode a Ducati 999 to victory in World Superbike in 2003.

Another rider people have been waiting for several years to see full time in AMA Superbike is 20-year-old Texan Ben Spies. The former AMA Horizon winner and 2003 Formula Xtreme champ is expected to be a serious contender in his first Superbike season on the Yoshimura Suzuki. Spies will team with Mladin and Aaron Yates forming what many consider to be the strongest team in the series.

If having Hodgson and Spies as new additions weren't enough, the late arrival of Kurtis Roberts to the Erion Racing Honda team brings another true title contender to the game. Roberts closed out the 2003 AMA Superbike Championship with two wins in the final three rounds before a disappointing season racing for his father's MotoGP team last year. The three-time AMA road racing champ is enthused about racing the Honda CBR1000RR. He twice won the Formula Xtreme title on the Honda CBR900RR.

Miguel Duhamel and Jake Zemke are back on the factory Hondas. Duhamel, who would like to pull ahead of Mladin as the all-time AMA Superbike wins leader, is always a threat to win at Daytona and Zemke is anxious to score his first win at the Speedway.

Kawasaki will be represented by Josh Hayes on the Attack Kawasaki. Hayes scored a slew of strong finishes on the team's ZX-10R in 2004. He's confident that with a season of development under its belt the team will be even stronger in '05.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan has assembled perhaps the strongest factory-support team in the history of the series. His Jordan Motorsports Suzuki squad will be three riders strong at Daytona headed by Jason Pridmore. Pridmore, 35, is a former AMA 750 Supersport Champion and Formula Xtreme Champion as well as 2003 FIM World Endurance Champion. He will try to follow in his father Reg Pridmore's footsteps to become the first father/son combination to earn the AMA Superbike Championship. Steve Rapp and Montez Stewart will compete on Jordan Suzukis alongside Pridmore.

There are a number of solid factory-backed teams entered for Daytona. Larry Pegram, a former AMA Superbike race winner, has his strongest ride in years with the Team Hotbodies Racing Honda.

Two-time AMA Superstock champ Jimmy Moore will team with Eric Wood on the Hooters Suzuki. Two-time Superstock race winner Chris Ulrich is riding with backing from Suzuki as well on the Roadracingworld.com entry. Former AMA Horizon Award winner Tony Meiring is racing the Daytona Superbike event with Corona Suzuki and 2004 AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year Cory West kicks off his sophomore season on the Team Hotbodies Suzuki.

Daytona 200 mileage leader Rick Shaw is entered in the Daytona Superbike event, as is former AMA Supersport great Mike Smith.

The race will be nationally televised live on SPEED Channel starting at 11 am EST, Saturday, March 12.

For additional information on this year's Bike Week races contact Daytona International Speedway at (386) 253-7223 or visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

About AMA Pro Racing
AMA Pro Racing is the leading sanctioning body for motorcycle sport in the United States. Its properties include the THQ AMA Supercross Series, the AMA Motocross Championship, the AMA Superbike Championship, the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship and the AMA Supermoto Championship. For more information about AMA Pro Racing, visit www.amaproracing.com.

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Series AMA
Drivers Larry Pegram , Kurtis Roberts , Steve Rapp , Miguel Duhamel , Tony Meiring , Joshua Hayes , Eric Wood , Aaron Yates , Eric Bostrom , Neil Hodgson , Jake Zemke , Ben Spies , Montez Stewart , Chris Ulrich , Mike Smit