MLADIN CARRIES MOMENTUM INTO AMA SUZUKI SUPERBIKE CHALLENGE PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 24, 2007) -- After relinquishing the title to Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Ben Spies last year, six-time AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin vowed to come back...
MLADIN CARRIES MOMENTUM INTO AMA SUZUKI SUPERBIKE CHALLENGE
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 24, 2007) -- After relinquishing the title to Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Ben Spies last year, six-time AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin vowed to come back with renewed vigor in 2007. The 35-year-old Australian has been true to his word. As the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited comes to the AMA Suzuki Superbike Challenge at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on April 27-29, Mladin is coming off an impressive doubleheader sweep this past weekend in Birmingham, Ala., and has moved from 10th to second in the standings and drawn within eight points of series leader Spies.
Fontana's doubleheader could provide an important barometer on what direction the rest of the AMA Superbike season will take. Spies, the 22-year-old champ from Longview, Texas, calls California Speedway one of his favorite circuits. He scored his very first career Superbike win there in 2005, his rookie season in the class. He also scored a sweep of last year's Superbike twin bill on the Speedway's 2.3-mile road course.
"He's definitely stepped up from last year," Spies said of teammate and rival Mladin. "In Alabama he did exactly what he had to do and I couldn't get my rhythm. The only good thing I take from last week's race is even though we didn't win we had the pace. We didn't get outright smoked like we did in '05. I'm happy with that. We're going to some good tracks that I like and tracks that he likes too. I'm sure it's going to be like this all year."
For Mladin the story so far this year has been one of sheer determination. Not only the resolve it took to push his 35-year-old body to the limits in training this off-season, but also the fortitude of racing most of the first round at Daytona International Speedway with a tire that was rapidly deteriorating. Picking up his bike after a crash caused by the chunked front tire, Mladin scored a 10th-place at Daytona when most riders would have pulled into the pits and called it a day.
"Going 190 miles per hour around the banking with pieces of rubber flying off and hitting me wasn't the most fun I've ever had on a motorcycle," Mladin deadpanned. "Of course Daytona was a little bit disappointing. But, you know, those things happen. It certainly didn't put a damper on what I felt I could achieve this year.
"I wasn't pleased about losing the championship last year, but as I said a number of times, I don't think I deserved to win the championship. My head and my heart weren't in it. And as I said earlier in the year, the best rider's going to win this year and we'll see who that ends up being because I'm not going to leave anything out there."
While many see the Superbike series as a two-rider battle, veteran Miguel Duhamel continues to feel encouraged with the steps forward he and the Honda team are making. Duhamel is determined to break up the Suzuki domination.
"I think Fontana is a place where we can definitely do well," said Duhamel, the third ranked rider who won the AMA Superbike title in 1995. "I think our bike is good. I'm not going to Fontana to get third. I want to get first. If we're going to win the championship, we've got to make some points on these guys. It's going to be tough. Ben's riding great and Mat's riding great. I think we're going to start seeing a three-rider tussle and it will be great for the fans and I'm looking forward to it as well."
Only 13 points separate the top three riders in the championship.
A host of other top riders will be trying to make it to the podium at California Speedway. Tommy Hayden is ranked fourth in the series coming into the race, having made a smooth transition from Kawasaki to Suzuki. Jake Zemke is still trying to find the combination that brought him a victory last year at Utah's Miller Motorsports Park aboard the factory Honda. Aaron Yates is bringing Jordan Suzuki unprecedented success. He barely missed a podium finish in Alabama last week.
Yamaha is back in the series with a factory team for the first time in five years and the R1s ridden by Eric Bostrom and Jason DiSalvo have shown flashes of their potential. The team would love nothing better than to have a breakthrough this weekend.
awasaki's Roger Lee Hayden and Jamie Hacking are hoping to find their way to the front of the field as well.
This race will also be the first opportunity for West Coast fans to see the striking new Ferracci MV Agusta Superbikes. This year marks the first time the exotic Italian maker has competed in the series. Matt Lynn and Luca Scassa ride the high-dollar machines.
Both rounds four and five of the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited from Fontana will be telecast nationally on SPEED. The races will be shown back to back on Sunday, April 29 starting with Saturday's race at 5:00 pm Eastern followed by Sunday's race broadcast live at 6:00 pm.
Tickets for the AMA Suzuki Superbike Challenge are available online at www.californiaspeedway.com Admission is free for ages 12 and under with a paid adult General Admission.