Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mat's 1st Year On The Team Yosh Suzuki

For you nostalgic types--such as myself--here is a shot I took of Mat Mladin,
who yesterday announced his retirement at the end of the '09 AMA Superbike
season after having withdrawn from the Topeka Tornado Superbike Races after
concerns of lack of proper safety areas on parts of the track.
Take a look back at the first year of what was to become an over decade run of race wins,
race poles, and the other little thing in that he won 6 titles in the supreme class of motorcycle
road racing on the North American continent. Now, keep in mind Mat had already had 2 years
of racing, and also winning, here in America, but was riding a Ferraci Ducati for those years.
The story of the day was Mat wasn't satisfied with the level of--or lack of for better words--testing with the team. And as a result that was what led to him being signed by the winningest
team in AMA Superbike history, Yoshimura Suzuki. And to say what was to come in the next
12-13 years was going to change the course of modern racing as we know it, well let's just
say that would be a gross understatement.
Mat Mladin--and of course Team Yosh--not only re-wrote the record books, they took over
the publishing--at least in the sense of totally dominating in every and all aspects of the sport for
6 of 7 years in winning titles and races, but continuing to decimate the competition even as
Ben Spies came along as his team mate and ALSO managing to bag 3 more championships.
But Mat needs to be given credit for MUCH more then all the wins, the poles, the podiums,
and that other little thing again of 6--and it very well could end up being 7 as he does have a
126 point lead going into this w/e's event/clusterf... at Topeka--he needs to be given credit for
the safety aspect of the series. He has been the most active, vocal and outspoken lead man to
help lead to widespread and house-cleaning changes in areas of track run-off, safety and SOLID
barriers, track surfaces that seep, bleed, or GUSH rivers of water, all of the areas of concern when you are a racer--not to mention a hard core fan and afficianado of the sport--that come into question when you are racing an over 200hp, 350 +/- lb. crotch rocket at speeds at over 180 mph. And if you've ever seen in person--or even on tv--a motorcycle, or worse yet a motorcycle racer, come into contact with something that should never have been there in the first place and the ensuing damage and chaos it causes, then you can begin to appreciate safety
and the measures you MUST take when competing at this level to ensure it DOESN'T happen!
And for THAT, more then all the big and other little things Mat has done for us, this wonderful sport, and the rider who may avoid those problems thanks to him being so vocal, so sure, and so
correct in standing up for those beliefs, we should ALL take a knee to the master!

Bravo Mat!!! It HAS been a great run, and the sport is already lonelier and at a loss without you.....

The shot above I snapped of Mat at Road America in June of '98. This was just out of turn 8
during qualifying for that w/e's event. I was able to get him to sign it for me a little over 2 months later at another event that raised MANY major safety concerns after the teams, riders,
and we fans, had showed up to see a race and it had been CANCELED due to safety concerns.
That event was the August '98 scheduled event in Joliet, IL., at the then-new Route 66 Raceway. They DID run the flat track races that w/e on the 1/2 mile dirt track--Rich King won
on a Corbin-sponsored RS750 Honda--and under the bleachers during a break Mat took the time to not only sign this shot but look at some of my others--and comment on safety issues at
race tracks.

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