Mladin Speaks Out

Henny Ray Abrams | July 18, 2009

Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Mat Mladin said he’d “lost interest” in American Superbike racing after finishing third to Yamaha’s Josh Hayes and Jordan Suzuki’s Aaron Yates at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and later added that this season could mark the end of his racing career in America.Mladin, the  runaway all-time leader in Superbike wins, poles, and championships, qualified ninth in Superpole on Friday, by far his worst starting position in as long as anyone could remember. He went quicker in final qualifying, after the track had picked up some rubber, and faster still in the 21-lap race.The six-time AMA Superbike Champion improved one spot off the start but was slow to pick riders off. It took him until the eighth of 21 laps to move into fourth and when he moved into third, with a pass of teammate Blake Young on the 16th lap, he was 1.73 seconds behind Hayes. And rather than shrink, that gap grew. Hayes beat Yates by .183 secs. with Mladin third at 3.055 secs.”My bike wasn’t too bad,” he said. “There were definitely a couple of spots out there where we are struggling a little bit.”His best lap in this morning’s final qualifying was 1:26.991 mins., but his best race lap of 1:25.982, which was better by almost a second, came on the fifth lap. And his third fastest lap, a 1:26.140, came on the run to the checkered flag.And after saying that the Suzuki GSX-R1000 wasn’t the issue, he gave this explanation.

“Realistically, I’ve just lost interest, to be honest with you,” he said. “It takes getting into a race with these guys and having a bit of fun and mixing things up, but the things that are happening in this paddock now and the things that have been overlooked, and the rules and the things that are going on on a daily basis, I’ve lost interest pretty much. It’s hard to get going on a one-lap basis. It’s good being in a race with these guys and that gets me going and fortunately it’s all over soon.”Among the things Mladin was referring to was AMA Pro Racing’s homologation of the Buell 1125RR for the American Superbike class. Many in the paddock believed it shouldn’t have been homologated because it wasn’t street legal, one of the conditions of homologation. But on Friday, AMA Pro Racing Vice President for Marketing and Communications Ollie Dean, said it had gone through proper channels.”The position is that it’s an 1125RR based on the 1125R, that went through the homologation process that our rulebook mandates that all bikes would have to go through, and that it’s approved to race this weekend,” Dean said.The main point of contention, according to many in the paddock, is that even though it is based on the 1125R, it has been homologated as a separate model and the homologation form states “AMA Pro American Superbike motorcycles must be street certified for use in the United States and be available at the time of competition from U.S. retail dealers.” Buell has two 1125RR’s for sale at Mid-Ohio. The 1125RR contains numerous chassis and engine parts that aren’t separately homologated for use on the 1125R, which means you couldn’t legally build an 1125RR out of legal pieces.Mladin also took exception to what many find to be preferential treatment of Yamaha.Said Mladin, “I hate to keep bringing up things to do with Yamaha, for instance, but again this weekend, like Laguna, and I mean I like Ben (Bostrom), he’s a nice guy and all the rest of it-it’s got nothing to do with him personally or Yamaha as a corporation-the bottom line is at Laguna they caused the red flag, they work on the bike on pit lane, and, ‘Ah! We say it’s OK today, so start in your normal grid position.'”Bostrom was responsible for the accident that brought out the red flag during the American Superbike race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. But the AMA countered by saying it was the inability of the pace car to stop the field that caused the red flag. The upshot was that Larry Pegram, who Bostrom took out, was forced to the back row because he had to use his back-up bike, while Bostrom assumed his normal starting spot. There was also some question as to whether all the work done to get Bostrom’s bike ready was legal.At Mid-Ohio, Bostrom blew an engine during a special ten-minute Friday afternoon warm-up prior to Superpole. Torrential rains had cleaned the track and the riders were given the session to re-familiarize themselves with the green surface. Bostrom blew an engine during the warm-up and had to revert to his back-up bike. He was late joining the line-up prior to Superpole, but was able to start in his assigned sixth place spot. The rulebook, Mladin pointed out, states that “Any rider that shows up late will be fined and excluded from Superpole. He will be placed in 10th position on the grid.”The AMA’s Bill Syfan, after consulting with AMA Pro Road Racing Managing Event Director Colin Fraser, who was in Canada running the Mosport round of the Parts Canada Superbike Championship, said ‘late’ meant not being able to start in his assigned spot.What made it especially nettlesome to Mladin and his crew was that AMA officials were pushing them to get to the line as they made late gearing adjustments.Mladin speculated that this season could mark the end of his racing career in America and that “there’s nothing Suzuki or anybody else can do about that. And I always finish most of these conversations with the manufacturers asked for this. OK. That is the point that has to be said. Suzuki, Honda, all these guys, asked for this. Simple. So don’t turn around and complain now.”He continued. “They had the chance to do different or do things that they wanted to do and if they really didn’t want to be here, they don’t have to be here. But in the end they want to be here. They want to race in this series. They don’t like what’s going on and a lot of them openly say so. But they’re here, so, you know, that’s typical fashion that we see too often these days in many things. Nobody’s got the sack to stand up and to change the course of what they want to do.”

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.