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While Mat Mladin’s aura of invincibility may have taken a bit of a hit due to Saturday's DNF, on Sunday at California Speedway the Yoshimura Suzuki ace reminded the world that he was still the same near-unbeatable force in AMA Superbike racing that everybody remembered.

Perhaps even more motivated than usual, the Aussie grabbed a rare holeshot from pole and was on his way. He lowered his times in a hurry and then watched the race develop behind him in order to carry out his strategy from the front.

The contest was actually one of the more uneventful AMA Superbike finals in recent memory in terms of position challenges and fireworks. The top ten ran seconds apart from one another pretty much the entire distance. However, under the surface there was a significant amount of intrigue to be found.

Saturday winner Ben Spies wasn’t completely satisfied yesterday despite standing on top of the box. He was anxious to try his hand against Mladin in a straight fight, feeling he just might have enough to top the five-time champ this weekend at California Speedway. The Texan got off the line in fourth and quickly worked past Ducati Austin’s Eric Bostrom and third Yosh star Aaron Yates to claim the runner up spot on lap 3.

At that point, the young gun was 1.5 seconds back and free to test his skills. For a few laps, Mladin eked out a bit of a margin, moving it up to 2.1 seconds. And there it stayed for the next six laps. Then the unthinkable started to occur -- Spies gobbled up a couple tenths of the Aussie’s advantage on lap 12. He did the same again on laps 13 & 14, bringing the lead down to a slim 1.217 seconds while closing in on striking distance.

However, once Spies got too close, the momentum shifted again, as Mladin immediately increased it back to two seconds, and then four, and finally topping it out at 6.299 seconds on the penultimate lap. He then backed it off to grab the checkered flag for his 36th career AMA Superbike victory by a 5.069-second margin.

Mladin later explained that he purposely allowed Spies to close in a bit to find out just what his newest rival had to offer before closing the door on his challenge. "Anytime you’re in the lead and setting the pace, it’s a little bit different from sitting back there and pacing yourself off somebody else. A couple laps I slowed it up a little bit to see if Ben had anything. He seemed like he was pretty well pegged at the lap time he was doing, so I picked up the pace just a few tenths and stretched it out a little bit and that was it. It was a good race. I’m sure Ben was trying hard to win it to solidify his win yesterday, but today wasn’t the day."

Fitting Sunday’s race into the bigger picture, Mladin said, "It was very important to get a good race today. Unfortunately, we’re five races into it and we’re all squared up again in the points tally. But, that’s racing. We’ve had a good run over the years and you’re going to get some every now and then. We’ll cop that one and hopefully we won’t have anymore this year and move on."

Despite coming up a bit short on Sunday, it was a very important weekend for young Spies. He took his first win on Saturday and proved himself Mladin’s stiffest challenger again on Sunday in what was his fifth consecutive podium finish -- a remarkable feat for a mere rookie.

Of Sunday’s race, he said, "Mat was a little bit in front of us and we were turning about the same lap times. At a point I was taking a little bit out of it, but he was going to be really hard to catch. I just wish we could have gotten a little better of a start and been with him going through lappers. The lappers weren’t super-good to me today, but that’s how it is if you can’t get to them first."

Yates ran the majority of the race in third with Ducati-mounted Bostrom close enough behind to keep him honest. The Georgian never provided ‘The Boss’ with a chance to steal away the position and cemented the Yoshimura Suzuki squad’s second podium sweep of the ’05 season.

"My race went pretty good," Yates reported. "I got a good start and went into Turn 1 with Mat and just settled in behind him. I wasn’t real comfortable the first few laps -- it took a bit for my tires to come around. So that was on my mind. I really wanted to go harder than I could, but I just had my mind on my tires too much. Ben came by and I tried hanging with him for a while, and we did what we could.

"I knew Eric was back there. He was pretty close in traffic, and then with a clear track I’d kind of get a way a bit. We kept going back and forth the whole time. It was a pretty uneventful race for me really. Those two guys were really going for it. I was going to try to keep it up there and get all Suzukis in the top three."

After nearly winning on Saturday, Neil Hodgson was almost a scratch on Sunday. His weekend illness worsened today and his status was up in the air until the bikes gridded up. The 2003 World Superbike champ toughed it out and picked up a fairly remarkable fifth, one spot behind Bostrom, his Ducati Corse teammate.

American Honda’s Jake Zemke came home sixth, albeit some 48 seconds behind the victor. Zemke became AmHon’s only real hope on the day after Miguel DuHamel crashed in Turn 5 on lap 3. DuHamel did manage to remount and continue, but could finish no higher than 18th.

After claiming a podium finish in Sunday's earlier Superstock race, Jordan Motorsports’ Steve Rapp added to his weekend by piloting his GSX-R1000 to seventh in the Superbike race.

Mat Mladin Motorsports’ Marty Craggill, Suzuki Canada’s Clint McBain, and Hotbodies Racing’s Larry Pegram rounded out the top ten.

Following five of seventeen races, Spies holds a slim title lead over Mladin, 155 to 152. Hodgson and Yates remain close behind at 146 and 143, respectively.

The AMA Superbike Championship will pick up again in two weeks time at Infineon Raceway.


May 01, 2005

Chris Martin
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I would have liked to have seen Spies run race 2 a bit closer. It was good to see SpeedTV break the leader lap focus and do a few shots of the 7th and 13th place races. When you have 3+ bikes vying for position, that is more exciting than watchin a runaway race. :2cents:
Hats off to Mladin for having the talent to smoke the field. I hope the others increase thier game and give him a run for the plate.
But that is just my opinion and I am a bit loopy. :screwy:
 

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Mladin - again, and again, and again. It's getting to be a bit like Formula 1 and Schuey the last 2 years.....except the Ferrari never broke.

Congrats to Matt, and to the rest of the field - time to step up your game. :yesnod:
 

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I would like to see what Mat could do in a different series next year. I don't know if he would accept a WSB ride or not, probably not, but I would even love to see him in MotoGP on a competent machine. See if he has what it takes to back up all that cockiness when he's out there with the big dogs :dthumb:


I have to honestly say, if things keep up at the pace they are at, it might be kind of a boring season in all 3 series.. Even though mladin is back in 2nd in pts right now, I could easily see him walking away with AMA superbike,and if Rossi keeps winning and Sete keeps DNF'n, and Troy Corser keeps it up in the WSB, then its gonna be a looooooong season for the racing fan :) Especially for us Honda owners! :mad:
 

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Enough about Mladin, al I hear is Mladin this and Mladin that (my buddy rides a Suzuki)...We should be talking about Rossi, being that I own a Yamaha and all... :bonk:

On another AMA note, I emailed Jason Disalvo about buying an autographed poster for my sports room since the Air Force has me stationed in BFE. He replied asking for address to send one for free since I am military.

I didn't expect this from someone so young, first class guy!

Oh yeah Mladin sucks!!! (just kidding :wink: )

Jim
 
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