Rockstar Makita Suzukis Torn Down

Henny Ray Abrams | August 29, 2008

BRASELTON, GA, AUG 29: AMA Pro Racing took the extraordinary step of having the engines torn down and the crankshafts removed in two of the three Rockstar Makita Suzukis following Friday’s provisional Superbike qualifying at Road Atlanta, site of the penultimate round of the AMA Superbike Championship. The engines in the Suzuki GSX-R1000’s of second fastest Mat Mladin and third fastest Tommy Hayden were stripped completely and the crankshafts taken away by AMA officials. The engine in Ben Spies’ machine wasn’t torn down. Instead the engine was sealed and Spies will race that machine in tomorrow’s 17th round of the AMA Superbike Championship. No one from either AMA Pro Racing nor the Daytona Motorsports Group would say why two were torn down and one wasn’t. One possible explanation is a visual discrepancy was found after a preliminary examination. When the left hand side cover is removed, the crank and one connecting rod are visible, one mechanic familiar with the Suzuki engine said. That may have been what triggered the teardown. Mladin is in the process of appealing his suspension from both races at the previous round of the championship at Virginia International Raceway. AMA officials allege the crankshaft in the bike he rode to victory on Sunday, August 17, was not in compliance with the 2008 rule book. The appeal was to be heard at Road Atlanta, but Yoshimura Suzuki was never informed about the specific violation and asked for more time to prepare an appeal. That the machines were torn down at all was unprecedented. No one at the track could ever remember a machine being torn down to the crankshaft after qualifying, let alone Friday provisional qualifying. To more than one observer it seemed like the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team was being targeted by race officials. Mladin has been vocal about his displeasure with the proposed path of the DMG-run AMA Superbike Championship, as has American Suzuki vice president Mel Harris. When the issue about Suzuki being targeted was first raised after VIR, DMG director of competition Colin Fraser denied it. Yoshimura Suzuki team manager Don Sakakura was to meet with the DMG’s Bill Syfan on Friday evening. It wasn’t immediately known if Mladin and Hayden would be disqualified from the event if the crankshafts were found to be illegal. It’s possible their Friday qualifying times would be removed, but that they could qualify and race on Saturday. The AMA Superbike rulebook isn’t specific about qualifying infractions. Syfan chose not to comment on the situation. An AMA Pro Racing spokesman said he expected to issue a statement later this evening.

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.