Reigning AMA Superbike champion
Mat Mladin is in a familiar position as the AMA Superbike Championship
presented by Parts Unlimited moves from Daytona Beach to Birmingham,
Ala., and the Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Superbike Classic
presented by McGraw Insurance Services on April 22-24.
Mladin won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in March
on his factory Yoshimura Suzuki and now hopes to continue his winning
streak at the picturesque Barber track. Mladin recorded the quickest lap
times in testing at the facility last month and is confident with the
"I've loved the new GSX-R1000 ever since I first threw a leg over it,"
said Mladin, the all-time AMA Superbike wins leader. "Now we've been
working on getting the bike set up to an area where I feel comfortable.
We found some settings we liked when we tested at Barber a few weeks ago
that made it feel good."
This year marks the third year the AMA Superbike Championship has
visited Barber. Mladin won the Sunday race at last year's doubleheader.
Other previous Superbike winners at Barber include Miguel Duhamel, Aaron
Yates and Kurtis Roberts. All three are slated to line up alongside
Mladin this weekend in Birmingham.
Duhamel, the 16-year AMA racing veteran and 1995 AMA Superbike champ,
passed Fred Merkel as all-time AMA Superbike wins leader in 1998 and he
hopes to square Mladin, the current wins leader, atop the wins list with
another victory at Barber.
"We've made a lot of progress in recent tests," said Duhamel of the
factory Honda CBR1000RR. "I'm hoping it will translate to success at
Barber. Unfortunately it seems every time we find a second Mladin finds
two. I look forward to Barber. It has a nice smooth surface and is a
beautiful facility. Mr. Barber could have thrown in a straightway to
give us a little rest (laughs), but I've done well there in the past and
expect to do well again this coming race. The competition in Superbike
is such that you make one mistake and you could go from a podium finish
to seventh or eighth. It should be a good one."
Aaron Yates, who resides in neighboring Georgia, provided input on the
design of Barber when it was being constructed so he knows every inch of
the 15-turn, 2.3-mile road course. Yates is hoping to rebound in 2005
after a disappointing 2004 Superbike campaign. "We got some points and
this was a better start to the racing season than last year," said Yates
after Daytona. "We've spent most of our time during the pre-season
testing the Superstock bike and now we're going to focus on Superbike.
With Daytona we realized the direction we want to go in."
Kurtis Roberts returns to Barber after a season in MotoGP. He'll be
getting more familiar with his Erion Racing Honda after signing with the
team late and getting very little testing time.
Alabama racing fans will get their first look at former World Superbike
champ Neil Hodgson. Hodgson rode his Austin Ducati to second at Daytona
and is eagerly anticipating his first season in America. "Everything has
been very promising," said the likeable Brit. "I was pleasantly
surprised by getting second at Daytona. I like the way the Ducati 999 is
handling and making power. It should work very well on the traditional
road courses here in America like Barber. I'm looking forward to racing
against some very tough competition this year."
Young Texan Ben Spies has moved up to the Superbike class and is ranked
third coming into the Barber doubleheader. Spies is a former Formula
Xtreme Champion and is the current track record holder for qualifying in
both Formula Xtreme and Superstock at Barber.
Others expected to be top runners at Barber include Honda's Jake Zemke,
who was ranked third in AMA Superbike last season. Zemke is looking for
his first win at Barber. Jason Pridmore is a proven winner and now he's
riding for Jordan Motorsports Suzuki, which has become a top contender
in the series this year. Basketball great Michael Jordan is the owner of
the team and is expected to be on hand at Barber to watch his team.
Former AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year Geoff May is gaining confidence
with the Suzuki backed M4/EMGO squad and Eric Bostrom riding for Ducati
Austin is hoping to regain the form that made him twice an AMA Superbike
Saturday's Superbike race will be televised nationally on SPEED Channel
beginning at 4 p.m. EST on Sunday, April 24, followed by live coverage
of Sunday's Superbike final at 5 p.m.