Tommy Hayden Stays on Top, Mladin Close

Henny Ray Abrams | February 3, 2009

FONTANA, CA, FEB 3: Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Tommy Hayden continued to top the Superbike field on the second of three days of testing at Auto Club Speedway, but it was his teammate Mat Mladin who put in the single most impressive lap. Mladin rode a total of only four laps and only one at speed. But that single lap put him third in the order, behind Hayden and Corona Extra Honda’s Neil Hodgson. “Yeah, we did an OK lap time,” Mladin said. Tommy Hayden continued to do the heavy lifting at Suzuki, though he didn’t turn in as many laps as the 75 he ran on Monday. Still, his hand-timed lap of 1:24.3 mins. was the fastest he’d ever been around Fontana by half a second and faster than the 2008 race laps of every rider but Mladin and former teammate Ben Spies. Hayden put the progress to more time on the all-new Suzuki GSX-R1000, which he finds more ergonomically suitable than the 2008 model. He spent a good part of the day sorting out suspension choices, but he “wouldn’t say we’ve settled at this point” between the Ohlins and Showa pieces. “We found some good things, kinda, and some bad things and a lot of different combinations. At this point it’s just kinda sit down and making a combination, I guess, so to speak. I liked parts of the Showa and parts of the Ohlins, actually, a little bit of both. One was a little bit better braking, one was a little bit better feeling once I got into the corner. It’s hard to say. Some other variables too that will make that decision.” Rockstar Makita Suzuki, which was the only team that tested Monday, packed up at the end of the day. The rest of teams will test on Wednesday. If Hayden had another day he’d “have liked to try just a little bit more adjustment with the bike. Really, we didn’t play with the geometry a whole lot, just because of the suspension stuff, that stuff took all the time. We have some offsets and stuff. I don’t have any major complaints right now,” but there were more adjustments in the front end to try to see “if there’s some areas that can be better that I don’t realize, just to get to learn how the bike reacts to some of that stuff.” The times might have been better but for a freak dousing of the racing surface on the infield straight just before 2:00 p.m. The burst water pipe halted all on-track activity for more than 90 minutes. “There was a huge area just completely covered in water,” Hayden said. “I knew there had to be a major problem, because I was looking around for a water truck or something, because it was just covered, the whole thing.” Hayden thought it had to be a high pressure line because the track was flooded in less time than it took to do one full lap. “What’s that, a minute and twenty some seconds? I come around and it goes from dry to borderline flooded,” he said. Mladin had stopped riding by the time the track flooded. Because Suzuki didn’t take part in the Dunlop Daytona tire test, this was the first time he’d ridden since the AMA season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at the end of September. And it was also his first ride on the new Suzuki in American Superbike-spec. His first impression was that the 2009 GSX-R1000 was a strong package out of the crate. “Realistically, when you can just go out there and do a lap and really get down to the sort of lap times that we can, that goes to show that there’s a lot of potential,” Mladin, riding with the number ‘7’ and wearing a Joe Rocket helmet, said. He then added that the Superstock-like rules may not slow down the Suzukis, which have won the past 46 Superbike races. “I’m not sure if the answer to the their problem that they’ve been trying to figure out for so long as to how to stop Suzuki is to go about it the way that they’re doing it.” Mladin flew to Los Angeles on the weekend and was returning home Tuesday night. While home in The Oaks, outside of Sydney, he said he wasn’t paying close attention to the series’ developments. “There’s obviously been a lot of stuff go on in the last few months and I’ve been in Australia and very disconnected from it, purposely,” he said. “I haven’t wanted to be connected to it. And that’s where we’re at. And being back here for this test I realize that we’re still miles, anybody’s really miles away from knowing exactly what’s going on. “I noticed this week that there’s still rules coming out on homologation or something. Obviously, I get the e-mails from the AMA that every competitor and team gets and there’s still coming out now trying to explain what’s going on this year and we’re a few weeks away. So, very, very hard for any team to really get everything together. I mean, I think anybody would say that. Very very, hard.” But he was confident that his team, more than any other, was capable of being successful within any set of rules. “Mate, in the end I think, in the end one thing about this team that they’ve done better than any other team and any other manufacturer is figure out how to get around problems,” he said. “That’s why we’ve dominated for the last decade. They’ve had the two best riders and they’ve had a team whose figured out how to make a motorcycle work. I’m not sure why that will change in 2009. But, anyway, maybe it will.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.