For the first 27 years of AMA
Superbike racing no rider could crack the three-championship barrier. As
the 2005 AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited takes
the green flag on Saturday, March 12, at Daytona International Speedway,
Aussie racing sensation Mat Mladin embarks on his quest to win an
unprecedented sixth title.
Mladin, the defending champ and Daytona Superbike winner who turns 33 on
Thursday of Bike Week, is the pre-season favorite on his Yoshimura
Suzuki GSX-R1000. This year Mladin will face a deep Superbike field.
Eighteen factory or factory-backed riders are slated to compete at
Daytona, in addition to a number of very good privateer entries.
Mladin turned in another record-setting season in 2004. He tallied eight
victories in the 18-race championship and finished the season tied with
Miguel Duhamel atop the all-time AMA Superbike wins list with 32-career
victories. He hopes to carry that momentum into the 2005 season. He was
the fastest rider in the first two days of pre-season Daytona tire
testing before suffering a crash and breaking his left ankle. In spite
of the accident Mladin was positive about his off-season.
"Aside from this incident, the opening two days of the test were very
promising for us," said the three-time Daytona Superbike winner. "The
new Suzuki GSX-R1000 was very good and was quick through the speed trap
there, so it's all shaping up very nicely in that regard at present. We
were quickest at the end of each day, which is always good. As with any
of these tests where you are preparing a new bike there are lots of
things to work through and so far so good."
Mladin will come to Daytona this year not only as a rider, but a team
owner as well. Mladin Motorsports is backing fellow Australian Marty
Craggill, a former Australian Superbike champ, and the team will debut
"I am grateful for the opportunity to race in the United States for the
2005 season", said Craggill. "To be associated with Mat Mladin
Motorsports for the up coming season has really given me a boost, and
I'm excited to be racing the new for 2005, Suzuki GSX-R1000."
Neil Hodgson, a former World Superbike Champion from Great Britain, is
coming to America to contest the AMA series on the Parts Unlimited
Ducati Austin squad as teammate to Eric Bostrom. Hodgson is the highest
profile rider in years to move from the world championships to AMA
Superbike racing. The colorful Brit is hoping to give Ducati its first
Daytona Superbike win in 28 years. Cook Neilson, Cycle Magazine editor
at the time, rode a Ducati to victory in the 1977 race.
"I would like to make history and be the first rider ever to have won
the British and World Superbike Championships and the AMA Championship,"
Hodgson said. "Being back on the Ducati 999 is going to be so natural
for me." Hodgson rode a Ducati 999 to victory in World Superbike in
Another rider people have been waiting for several years to see full
time in AMA Superbike is 20-year-old Texan Ben Spies. The former AMA
Horizon winner and 2003 Formula Xtreme champ is expected to be a serious
contender in his first Superbike season on the Yoshimura Suzuki. Spies
will team with Mladin and Aaron Yates forming what many consider to be
the strongest team in the series.
If having Hodgson and Spies as new additions weren't enough, the late
arrival of Kurtis Roberts to the Erion Racing Honda team brings another
true title contender to the game. Roberts closed out the 2003 AMA
Superbike Championship with two wins in the final three rounds before a
disappointing season racing for his father's MotoGP team last year. The
three-time AMA road racing champ is enthused about racing the Honda
CBR1000RR. He twice won the Formula Xtreme title on the Honda CBR900RR.
Miguel Duhamel and Jake Zemke are back on the factory Hondas. Duhamel,
who would like to pull ahead of Mladin as the all-time AMA Superbike
wins leader, is always a threat to win at Daytona and Zemke is anxious
to score his first win at the Speedway.
Kawasaki will be represented by Josh Hayes on the Attack Kawasaki. Hayes
scored a slew of strong finishes on the team's ZX-10R in 2004. He's
confident that with a season of development under its belt the team will
be even stronger in '05.
Basketball legend Michael Jordan has assembled perhaps the strongest
factory-support team in the history of the series. His Jordan
Motorsports Suzuki squad will be three riders strong at Daytona headed
by Jason Pridmore. Pridmore, 35, is a former AMA 750 Supersport Champion
and Formula Xtreme Champion as well as 2003 FIM World Endurance
Champion. He will try to follow in his father Reg Pridmore's footsteps
to become the first father/son combination to earn the AMA Superbike
Championship. Steve Rapp and Montez Stewart will compete on Jordan
Suzukis alongside Pridmore.
There are a number of solid factory-backed teams entered for Daytona.
Larry Pegram, a former AMA Superbike race winner, has his strongest ride
in years with the Team Hotbodies Racing Honda.
Two-time AMA Superstock champ Jimmy Moore will team with Eric Wood on
the Hooters Suzuki. Two-time Superstock race winner Chris Ulrich is
riding with backing from Suzuki as well on the Roadracingworld.com
entry. Former AMA Horizon Award winner Tony Meiring is racing the
Daytona Superbike event with Corona Suzuki and 2004 AMA Superbike Rookie
of the Year Cory West kicks off his sophomore season on the Team
Daytona 200 mileage leader Rick Shaw is entered in the Daytona Superbike
event, as is former AMA Supersport great Mike Smith.
The race will be nationally televised live on SPEED Channel starting at
11 am EST, Saturday, March 12.