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Suzuki's Mladin Eyes Repeat at Sears Point in Progressive Insurance Superbike Challenge

2 May 2000

SONOMA, Calif. - The man from Down Under came out on top at Sears Point Raceway in 1999, and he's a good bet to make it two in a row when the knee-dragging excitement of the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship Series makes its only springtime visit to Northern California this weekend, May 5-7.

Mat Mladin, a native of Australia, dominated the twisting road course at Sears Point Raceway in 1999, racing to the checkered flag aboard his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX R750. It was the start of a fevered streak for Mladin, who went on to capture his first Superbike championship.

"We deserved the championship," Mladin said. "We deserved it for Suzuki, for my team, Yoshimura, and my crew. We had the best bike and the best crew. We probably had the best rider, too."

Mladin hopes for a repeat performance in 2000 at Sears Point Raceway in the Progressive Motorcycle Insurance AMA Superbike Challenge. The victory at Sears Point continued a solid trend for the 28-year-old, who was also runner-up at Sears Point in 1996, his first season in the AMA after taking second place in the Australian Superbike championship in 1995.

But a second consecutive victory won't be easy on the twisting road course, especially against the likes of three-time Superbike champion Doug Chandler and Miguel Duhamel, who has ruled the road course at Sears Point in recent years aboard his Honda.

Duhamel has won at Sears Point three of the last five years, including back-to-back victories in 1997-98. Chandler, meanwhile, continued his string without a Superbike victory at Sears Point. The Salinas native has been competing on the Superbike series since 1987, but he has been unable to tame the twisting road course at Sears Point.

In all, the Progressive Motorcycle Insurance weekend will feature exciting action in seven divisions. Top manufacturers involved include Yoshimura Suzuki, Kawasaki, Harley-Davidson Honda, Vance & Hines Ducati and Yamaha, to name just a few. These riders will defy gravity on the country's most demanding road course at speeds in excess of 100 mph with nothing but leathers and a helmet for protection.

Qualifying will take place on Friday and Saturday (May 5-6), with main events also scheduled for Saturday. The 25-lap Progressive Motorcycle Insurance Superbike feature will begin on Sunday at 1 p.m. Check and link to Sears Point for the latest updates on the event.

Other top competitors expected to challenge for the Superbike title at Sears Point include Aaron Yates (Suzuki), who captured his first Superbike win at Sears Point (1996) and finished fourth a year ago. Yates appeared to have third place locked up but Pascal Picotte (Harley-Davidson) sneaked by on the inside of Turn 7 with a few laps remaining to reach the podium. Picotte will again team with Scott Russell aboard the mighty VR1000 for Harley-Davidson.

An exciting new addition to the Superbike ranks in 2000 is Troy Bayliss, who will ride for Vance & Hines Ducati after competing in World Superbike. He will be joined in the Vance & Hines stable by local star Steve Rapp of Lafayette.

Phenom Nicky Hayden will also be a rider to watch in 2000 as a member of Honda. Hayden burst onto the scene two years ago as a green 17-year-old from Owensboro (Kent.), and he has since made an impression. He won the 600 SuperSport championship in 1999, which included a victory at Sears Point, and was second in Formula Xtreme. Hayden also competed in the AMA's Grand National flat track series where he earned Rookie of the Year honors.

Erion Honda's Kurtis Roberts, of the renowned Roberts racing family, also took his first AMA National title in 1999, winning the Formula Xtreme series title with three wins and as many additional podium finishes.