Sunday’s forecast for Fontana, California calls for a 30 percent chance of showers. If it does rain, there’s a 100 percent likelihood that Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Mat Mladin won’t race.Mladin made the point after setting fast time in Friday morning American Superbike qualifying at Auto Club Speedway. His lap of 1:24.070 was off the 2008 pole time of 1:23.366 set by Ben Spies and just off Mladin’s own mark of 1:23.940. Mladin will have a chance to better the time in the Superpole session held later on Friday afternoon.”Yeah, it’s not too bad,” Mladin said of his qualifying time. “I was just saying to Pete [Doyle, Mladin’s crew chief] that you change things on this bike and things don’t react the same as on the Superbike. With the Superbike it was very stiff and very rigid and when you rode hard it gave you a lot of feedback. This thing just sort of wobbles around the race track no matter how slow or hard you ride it. It feels soft and it feels mushy.”Whether he can improve his time in Superpole or not, Mladin wasn’t that concerned. He said that he hasn’t “been concerned with qualifying in the past when Ben [Spies] was here or whatever. I had my time of trying to go fast for a lap and getting pole positions and if we can do it this afternoon, that’s great. For me, I get a kick out of trying to win the race and get it done over the race distance. Nothing’s changed from this year to last year except one of the fastest guys that’s ever been here is now winning World Championships. That’s the only thing that’s changed.”What’s also changed is that he’s racing a 2008 Suzuki GSX-R1000 in near-Superstock trim and will do for the next few races.”We’ve got these bikes until Barber when we start riding the ‘09’s,” he said, adding that the bike was essentially unchanged since Daytona.If the forecast for rain holds true, Mladin said he wouldn’t be riding, because “the race track’s far too dangerous for that and we never used to race here in the rain. I don’t see what’s changed really.”Though he didn’t know the AMA policy on racing in the rain at Fontana, Mladin said that Suzuki would support the decision of their riders “when they don’t feel safe and certainly a number of the racetracks on the circuit are barely passable for dry weather conditions and definitely not passable for wet weather conditions. Unfortunately, this is one of those ones. And in the end, we’ve had fantastic conditions here all the time. We’ve always managed to get in dry races.”I’m sure, hopefully, we’ll have the same this weekend. But, yeah, Suzuki understands my position on safety and that’s all that matters to me.”
Mladin Fast in Fontana
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.