Mladin on Point at Sears

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
Mat Mladin has not only owned the AMA U.S. Chevy TrucksSuperbike Championship series the last two years, but he also returns as thedefending champion at Sears Point Raceway for the AMA Superbike Challenge, May4-6.

Mladin, who rides for Yoshimura Suzuki, is the two-time reigning AMA Superbikechampion, and if he can make it a three-peat, he'll join some elite company inDoug Chandler, Reg Pridmore and Fred Merkel as the only three-time winners inAMA history.

He got off to a tremendous start by winning his second consecutive Daytona 200on March 11...

"Of course, we'd like to get a championship again, but after you've won acouple of titles, it gets easier, not harder," Mladin said. "So we'd like towin even more races. After the first title, we made that our goal for lastyear 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 bythe second-closest margin in history (.011 seconds) after narrowly finishingsecond (by .014 seconds) in 1999. Then, he won the next two races, permanentlytaking the points lead, and climbed on the podium six more times beforecruising to his second straight championship.

He will wear the coveted No. 1 plate again this season for Suzuki, but thathasn't diminished the Australian rider's overwhelming desire to win anothercrown, which will include a victory at the AMA Superbike Challenge at SearsPoint Raceway.

Mladin won the event in 1999 by a wide margin but he'll be tested by the likesof Chandler and Eric Bostrom from Kawasaki, as well as Nicky Hayden fromAmerican Honda, among others.

"I think we clearly have the best team in the series," Mladin said. "You don'twin back-to-back championships and have two riders do so well in a seasonwithout a first-rate operation. So, there wasn't a need for much change aroundhere."

Considering Mladin's consistent performance throughout the 2000 season,including five second-place finishes, more wins are expected from the team thattook the championship, as well as third overall with Suzuki teammate AaronYates.

One addition to this year's team is Mladin's new crew chief, fellow AussiePeter Doyle. But he's not new to Mladin. The old friends go back to when theywon the Australian Superbike championship together in 1992.

The big change is the new GSX-R750 Superbike, presenting both the greatestchallenge and the most long-term opportunity.

"The 2001 Suzuki Superbike is so new, but it made a good first impression withme," Mladin said. "I have a lot of confidence in our ability to get the mostout of it. Everyone who's ridden the street version agrees that it is quite abike. The magazines have given it all the awards and such, so now we'll havethe opportunity to prove it on the track. That's my challenge now. I wouldreally like to be able to put a No. 1 plate on the new Suzuki."

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