SONOMA, Calif. - Mat Mladin has not only owned the AMA U.S. Chevy Trucks Superbike Championship series the last two years, but he also returns as the defending champion at Sears Point Raceway for the AMA Superbike Challenge, May 4-6. Mladin, who...
SONOMA, Calif. - Mat Mladin has not only owned the AMA U.S. Chevy Trucks Superbike Championship series the last two years, but he also returns as the defending champion at Sears Point Raceway for the AMA Superbike Challenge, May 4-6.
Mladin, who rides for Yoshimura Suzuki, is the two-time reigning AMA Superbike champion, and if he can make it a three-peat, he'll join some elite company in Doug Chandler, Reg Pridmore and Fred Merkel as the only three-time winners in AMA history.
He got off to a tremendous start by winning his second consecutive Daytona 200 on March 11.
"Of course, we'd like to get a championship again, but after you've won a couple of titles, it gets easier, not harder," Mladin said. "So we'd like to win even more races. After the first title, we made that our goal for last year and won four. I'd like to win half a dozen in a season."
Mladin started last season with some sweet revenge. He won the Daytona 200 by the second-closest margin in history (.011 seconds) after narrowly finishing second (by .014 seconds) in 1999. Then, he won the next two races, permanently taking the points lead, and climbed on the podium six more times before cruising to his second straight championship.
He will wear the coveted No. 1 plate again this season for Suzuki, but that hasn't diminished the Australian rider's overwhelming desire to win another crown, which will include a victory at the AMA Superbike Challenge at Sears Point Raceway.
Mladin won the event in 1999 by a wide margin but he'll be tested by the likes of Chandler and Eric Bostrom from Kawasaki, as well as Nicky Hayden from American Honda, among others.
"I think we clearly have the best team in the series," Mladin said. "You don't win back-to-back championships and have two riders do so well in a season without a first-rate operation. So, there wasn't a need for much change around here."
Considering Mladin's consistent performance throughout the 2000 season, including five second-place finishes, more wins are expected from the team that took the championship, as well as third overall with Suzuki teammate Aaron Yates.
One addition to this year's team is Mladin's new crew chief, fellow Aussie Peter Doyle. But he's not new to Mladin. The old friends go back to when they won the Australian Superbike championship together in 1992.
The big change is the new GSX-R750 Superbike, presenting both the greatest challenge and the most long-term opportunity.
"The 2001 Suzuki Superbike is so new, but it made a good first impression with me," Mladin said. "I have a lot of confidence in our ability to get the most out of it. Everyone who's ridden the street version agrees that it is quite a bike. The magazines have given it all the awards and such, so now we'll have the opportunity to prove it on the track. That's my challenge now. I would really like to be able to put a No. 1 plate on the new Suzuki."