Oct 2, 2001
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Three-time AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin and his wife Janine left Los Angeles International Airport Monday night on a flight home to Australia, where he will remain until December.<BR><BR>Mladin will return to the United States prior to Dunlop tire tests scheduled at Daytona in December, according to Yoshimura Suzuki's Don Sakakura.<BR><BR>Two press releases concerning Mladin's latest Championship follow, one issued by Mladin's publicist, Steve Reeves on Sunday, and another issued by Suzuki's world-wide racing press service on Tuesday.<BR><BR>From Mladin's publicist:<BR><BR>MAT MLADIN--2001 AMERICAN AMA SUPERBIKE CHAMPION<BR><BR>Alton, Virginia, USA - Australian Mat Mladin has won his third consecutive American AMA Superbike championship after finishing a strong, but uncustomary, twelfth place in today's final round of the 2001 AMA Chevy Trucks US Superbike Championship, held at the Virginia International Raceway.<BR><BR>Mladin becomes only the third rider in the history of the AMA Superbike Championship to have won three consecutive titles, joining Reg Pridmore (1976, `77, `78) and Fred Merkel (1984, `85, `86). He is also the second Australian to have won after Troy Corser's victory in 1996.<BR><BR>"It's been a hard year, that's for sure," said 29-year-old Mladin. "It wasn't a perfect season as I did make a couple of mistakes, but the championship win was what we were after. This weekend wasn't about me winning the race today. It was winning the championship for the whole team, Suzuki, Yoshimura and all of the guys. I'm looking forward to heading back to Australia in the next few days for a break before returning next year to see if we can make it four championships in a row."<BR><BR>Mladin arrived at the Virginia circuit holding a 16-point lead over Team Kawasaki's Eric Bostrom and stretched it to 17 at the end of qualifying after he took a record equaling ninth pole position for the season and the extra championship point. This also increased Mladin's record tally of AMA Superbike pole positions to 24.<BR><BR>Mladin's preparation for today's event was disrupted when he fell during the morning warm up session and his Team Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R750 caught alight. He escaped injury but his number one machine suffered extensive damage and he was forced to use his spare bike for the race.<BR><BR>"I was pushing pretty hard during the warm up, just to see how hard I could go, in case I had to in the race," added Mladin. "I pushed that bit too hard and lost the front and unfortunately the bike caught fire and was pretty badly burnt. My spare bike was set up the same as the race bike, but they still don't feel the same and it took a few laps to get used to it."<BR><BR>Mladin's main attention during the 150km race was the position of Eric Bostrom. After dicing with the leaders early in the race, Bostrom ran wide and out of outright contention to eventually finish tenth, two places ahead of Mladin. With a total of 380 championship points, Mladin finished fifteen clear of Bostrom (365), with the pair followed by Nicky Hayden (340) and Doug Chandler (Team Kawasaki, 319).<BR><BR>"I cruised around in the early laps just behind the leaders and was happy with the pace of the race. I saw Eric (Bostrom) run off the circuit on about lap 15 and stayed ahead of him until the pit stop. From there on I knew where he was and all I had to do was finish."<BR><BR>Today's race win went to American Honda's Nicky Hayden, who edged out Australian Anthony Gobert (Team Yamaha) by 2.09 seconds at the conclusion of the 42-lap race. The win made it four consecutive wins for the Honda rider.<BR><BR>Mladin became the third Australian rider to win a major international title in recent weeks joining Troy Bayliss (World Superbike Championship) and Andrew Pitt (World Supersport Championship).<BR><BR><BR><BR>The release from Suzuki's press service:<BR><BR>SUZUKI MAKES IT THREE TITLES IN A ROW<BR><BR>AMA Superbikes, September 30, Virginia International Raceway.<BR><BR>YOSHIMURA SUZUKI'S Mat Mladin won his third consecutive American superbike championship with a measured ride in the final round of the AMA Superbike Championship at Virginia International Raceway. <BR><BR>The 29-year-old Australian became only the third rider in the history of the Superbike championship to win three titles in a row, and the first do it on a Suzuki. <BR><BR>"If this was the first race of the year we were fast enough to win the race," Mladin said after finishing 12th. "At the start of the race I said: ‘We should go out and try to win this thing.' I didn't mean it, but I was saying we can win this race. It's always hard to let them get away. Everyone's worked so hard all year for me to go out there and make a mistake and cost these guys a championship for working so hard, I couldn't bear that." <BR><BR>The third championship didn't come easily for Mladin. There was the challenge of a new Suzuki GSX-R750, there were a few rider errors, and a few machine errors, but the team persevered. The last of the errors came towards the end of the morning practice, the team's last chance to fine-tune the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R750, when he crashed. Mladin was pushing hard coming onto the front straightaway when both wheels slid off the track. The bike tumbled and caught fire, forcing the team to prepare his back-up machine for the race. <BR><BR>Up until then Mladin was in an enviable position. Consistent results throughout the 13-race season meant that he came in guarding a 16 point lead. He finished on the podium in nine of 12 races, winning four along the way. In control of the championship from his second consecutive win in the season-opening Daytona 200, Mladin never relinquished the role of front-runner. He helped his cause by taking eight pole positions in a row, a new record, and nine overall, another record. In American Superbike racing, the rider who earns the pole position gets a point, and fully half of Mladin's points lead came from his ability to turn in the lone blistering lap on command. <BR><BR>Mladin showed up at his spot on the grid wearing a black helmet with an American flag on the side and a new set of green-accented racing leathers.<BR><BR>"The helmet was just a tribute to the people for the things that happened a few weeks ago," he said. "I couldn't believe what happened that day. I was glued to the television for three days. I couldn't train. It happened in America but it happened to the whole world. It's something that we all have to feel lucky to do what we do. It really put things in a perspective for me.<BR><BR>"I came here this weekend and I said to the guys ‘If I win I win, if I don't win too bad.' The helmet was just a little bit to pay some respect and some remembrance to the people who were lost in the tragedy. Green colors are the sporting colors of Australia."<BR><BR>Because he had such a yawning lead, Mladin struggled to keep his concentration in the race. <BR><BR>"The first six or eight or 10-laps I was sort of there, but I wasn't there," he said. "The first five or six laps I was just hanging on the back of them. I had good speed today, but obviously it wasn't a day to try to go out there and win." Once he realized his closest pursuer wasn't a threat, he backed off half a second a lap. "And then when he ran off the track it just gave me way too much time to think about what I'm going to do tomorrow and looking forward to flying home tomorrow night."<BR><BR><BR>Peter Doyle, Mat Mladin's Crew Chief:<BR>"At the start of the year we had to come in with a brand new bike and we worked out fairly early on that all of the information from the previous years was irrelevant. For someone to come in and win a series like this is a pretty good job. On the positive side, we know we can improve with everything we have. We know where there's room to improve. Other than a few minor hiccups the year was great."<BR><BR>Kevin Schwantz, 1993 500cc World Champion, Yoshimura Suzuki Team Advisor:<BR>"It's a lot of Mat's confidence that makes him so good. I've never seen him when he's anything but dead-set focused on doing his job, whether it's the Saturday of a superbike double-header or on Sunday. And he doesn't let anything distract him from it. He knows what his job is and he takes his job very seriously. Even within the Suzuki team, everyone realize that Mat's the focus of the team.<BR><BR>"He's got such a good head on his shoulders. He thinks ‘Championship, championship, championship.' One-hundred per cent of the time at the racetrack and probably 100 per cent of the time away from the racetrack. He's got a great bunch of guys around him. It seems like they're always a step ahead."<BR><BR>Masayuki Itoh, Technical Department Race Team Manager:<BR>"Of course three titles in a row ties us with Honda. We're looking forward to setting a new record of four in a row next year. It's going to be tough, but my target is four. It was hard to watch the race today, but I thought Mat was always in control. I wasn't worried."