Mat Mladin normally does not
cherish the Pikes Peak International Raceway stop on the AMA Superbike
calendar, but this year is different. The five-time AMA Superbike champ
from Australia is looking forward to the challenge. PPIR is the only
track in the series where Mladin has not earned a victory. The No. 1
Suzuki riders plans to change that this weekend, May 21-22, when the top
riders from across the country converge on Fountain, Colo., for round
eight of the 17-race AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts
Mladin is in the middle of what's shaping up to be the most dominant
season in the 30-year history of AMA Superbike racing. He's won six of
the seven rounds coming into this Sunday's race. Only a mechanical
failure on his bike in the first leg of the California Speedway
doubleheader on April 30, has kept him from a perfect season so far.
Mladin thinks he has the bike this year that will help him finally
conquer Pikes Peak.
"I can't wait to get to Colorado," said Mladin, who leads the series by
16 points over Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Ben Spies. "It's been a bit of
a bad track for me so I plan on turning it around. For some reason I
haven't got it together for that race and have spoken to my crew chief
about it a lot. Suzuki has given me the best package out there this
year. We'll see what happens."
While Mladin is looking to earn a breakthrough victory at Pikes,
five-time race winner Eric Bostrom is hoping the visit to PPIR will help
turn his season around. Bostrom feels right at home on the 1.315-mile,
seven-turn circuit. PPIR used to be a dirt oval and once hosted an AMA
Grand National. The track still features a broad flat track-like left
hand turn. Bostrom was a leading flat track racer before moving over to
road racing and Pikes Peak fits him like a glove.
"I've always liked Pikes Peak," said Bostrom, who comes into this
weekend ranked fifth in the standings. "It's a track that requires a lot
of stamina and throttle control. I've had a lot of success there over
the years. Obviously we've been struggling quite a bit this year and a
good weekend at Pikes would be great for the team. Since the track is so
tight getting the set-up there is very important. Hopefully we'll find
the right combination and have another good performance there."
Bostrom's Austin Ducati teammate Neil Hodgson could be a surprise in his
first appearance at PPIR. Many of the British circuits on which Hodgson
honed his skills were "scratcher" circuits, as the Brits like to call
tight and twisty courses. Hodgson comes into Pikes ranked fourth with
four podium finishes to his credit.
Jake Zemke is another ex-flat track racer who is looking for a solid
race at Pikes. The Honda rider was a close runner up to Bostrom last
year. Zemke, who finished ranked third in his first full year of AMA
Superbike racing in 2004, has had a tough road so far in the season, but
he's coming off his best result with a fourth last weekend at Infineon
Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
"Definitely, that's the hardest fourth place I've ever ridden in my
life," Zemke, said of last Sunday's effort in California. "For the first
time we're actually starting to see some results from the progress here
and going quicker than we did on last year's stuff, so that's a good
Yoshimura Suzuki teammates Ben Spies and Aaron Yates are battling for
second in the series standings. Spies, a 20-year-old rookie from Texas,
actually led the series earlier this year and is hoping to have a good
result in his first Superbike race at Pikes. He won the Superstock race
at the track in 2001. Yates is looking for his first victory of the
season at Pikes.
A win for Mladin, Spies or Yates would mark the first Suzuki Superbike
victory at Pikes Peak International Raceway.
Miguel Duhamel joins Bostrom as the only other previous Pikes Peak
Superbike winner on the grid. Duhamel won the fist AMA Superbike race at
the then newly-built venue in 1997. The Honda racing veteran is looking
to earn his first victory of the season after scoring six wins in 2004.
A privateer to watch at Pikes Peak will be Larry Pegram on the Hotbodies
Racing Honda. Pegram is one of the few active riders to win on both the
AMA Grand National flat track circuit and in AMA Superbike. Like Bostrom
and Zemke, the Ohioan should feel right at home on the big left-hand
turns of Pikes Peak. "The first few races have been the testing for us
so we've been playing catch up with the factory teams," Pegram said last
week after the races in Sonoma, Calif. "We've shown now that we're
getting closer so I'm happy with our progress. I'm happy with how it's