MBNA Superbike Shootout at Honda Challenge of Laguna Seca
25 March 1998WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- If you're one of the top-ranked racers in the MBNA Superbike Tour, you know this about Laguna Seca: You have to beat the track before you can even begin to beat the competition. There are riders who are less than comforted by this fact, and an elite few who are as comfortable at Laguna as they might be in their own backyards. On April 17-19, fans will find out just who's who, when the MBNA Superbike Tour arrives in Monterey, Calif., for the Honda Challenge of Laguna Seca.
The races leading up to Laguna Seca have made for one of the most intriguing MBNA Superbike seasons in decades. A pair of Australians -- Vance & Hines Ducati rider Anthony Gobert and Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin -- are tied for the series lead. Both riders have vowed to win the 1998 MBNA Superbike title, and both have had their share of experience on the demanding Laguna Seca road course.
In February of this year, Gobert and Mladin faced off on the tight infield road course at Phoenix International Raceway. Mladin led several laps early and went on to finish a respectable second-place, but Gobert's gamble on a harder tire compound gave him the win when others' tires started to fade late in the race.
The two Aussies also fared well at round two of the MBNA Superbike Tour -- the Daytona 200 by Arai. Mladin finished in fourth place, two places ahead of Gobert, and tied the two riders for the series lead.
Gobert has won at Laguna Seca while riding in the World Superbike circuit in 1995 and 1996. Mladin has come close, taking runner-up honors at the MBNA Superbike race at Laguna
Seca last year. The two riders are surely anxious to arrive at Laguna Seca and resolve this tenuous situation, but there is another rider that neither can afford to ignore.
Doug Chandler calls Laguna Seca his "home track." The Muzzy Kawasaki rider finished well ahead of Gobert and Mladin at this year's Daytona 200, and he's right behind them in the MBNA Superbike Championship points race.
After a fourth-place finish at round one in Phoenix, Chandler placed second in the Daytona 200, allowing him to stay on the heels of Gobert and Mladin. Chandler now has 59 season points: the pair from Down Under lead by the smallest possible margin: 1 point. Chandler and the Muzzy Kawasaki team have won the MBNA Superbike rounds at Laguna Seca for the past two years. Last year, Chandler won Laguna by a decisive 12-second margin over runner-up Mat Mladin. Chandler is gunning for a record fourth MBNA Superbike title this year, and he is also on the verge of tying Freddier Spencer's record of three wins at Laguna Seca.
In addition to the excitement of the MBNA Superbike race, the Honda Challenge of Laguna Seca will feature a full weekend of qualifying, heats and final races for the five other series of the MBNA Superbike Tour. The Teamline 750 SuperSport, Pro Honda Oils 600 SuperSport, Elf Race Fuels and Lubricants Grand Prix, Pirelli Formula Xtreme and Progressive Insurance Pro Thunder series will provide spectators a wide variety of high-tech, hard-charging competition.
Tickets for the Honda Challenge of Laguna Seca are available at (800) 327-SECA (7322). Speedvision will broadcast the Laguna MBNA Superbike race live. Additional series races will broadcast tape-delay on Speedvision and Fox Sports Net. For broadcast dates, check local listings or AMA Directlink at www.ama-cycle.org.