Superbike Planet spoke with the greatest rider in the history of the series, Mat Mladin, on Friday at Mid-Ohio, asking him his opinions of recent developments in the series ...
Soup: What do you think about that Buell deal?
Mladin: I tweeted the other night, on my Twitter account to my followers, what do you say? What can you say? It's a purpose-built race bike that's racing in a class where you have to have a certain amount of street bikes homologated every year and sold every year, to be able to be eligible to race in it. What do you say? But that's what we've seen. It's different rules for everybody around here. The Ducati has its rules advantages as well. Not to the same extent as this new Buell. The Buell's a purpose-built race bike.
And people need to take what I say in context, in the sense that, to me, I don't care if the Buell wins or comes 20th and is never competitive. The bottom line is, it shouldn't be legal for the class. For the class under the current rule system. And that's the thing that happens, is that it's just - I guess as long as people are paying the right amount of money or whatever, I guess you're allowed in. I don't know. I'm not sure.
Q: Everybody knows you guys this year are racing machines that are basically run-down-to-the-mall type street bike stuff.
A: That's what I've said in the past. And again, in the end, I don't 100% agree with what we're racing over here. I mean, if the rest of the world, England and other places, can race fully fledged Superbikes, then why can't America? Jesus, this is America, dude. This is the country where Suzuki - not in 2009 of course, but in 2007, 2008 or whenever, sold 200,000 motorcycles. I mean, if they want to spend $10,000,000 to go race, then why can't they? I know it's what the fans want. But that's the way it is. What are you going to do? That's it. Seven weeks, the last race, and that's it.
Q: How much did your bike sell for?
A: The one that they sold, I think was 60 grand.
Q: I think that's right, yeah.
A: But I mean, still, at the same time, this is top-level racing. And it certainly hasn't achieved what we were told that it was going to achieve, and that is the sense of making the bikes cheaper for the privateers so they're competitive. People need to understand what "competitive" is. "Competitive" certainly isn't three seconds off the pace, or four seconds off the pace. But competitive's not one second off the pace, either. That's not competitive. So in the end, at the finish of a race, a guy in 10th now might be 40 seconds behind, instead of a minute. Does that make any difference? Does that make any difference, realistically, you know what I mean? In the end, it's a shame that the bikes that the manufacturers are racing over here. But in a sense, the manufacturers, realistically, have themselves to blame.
Q: There's no point at which they can dumb it down where Rider X is going to be within 10 seconds of you at the end of the race, right?
A: Yeah, I mean, I don't know, is there?
Q: You could be racing mopeds, and you'll still -
A: The best riders, and the best team, will always find a way to get it somewhere at the front, somewhere. It may not happen every weekend, but certainly on a consistency basis, you're always going to see the same guys somewhere up at the front. Look at Grand Prix. All the different motorbikes, but there are still only three to four guys that are at the front every weekend. World Superbike.
Q: Same thing. That's motorcycle racing.
A: Three, four guys at the front every weekend. So yeah. To me, it's just a shame that the class rules account for having to race these motorbikes. It's a real shame that when the World Superbike guys come here, that there's not six or eight factory guys over here, or 10 factory guys over here, on factory Superbikes, that can just slot in as wild cards. That's what the fans would love to see. They would love to see that. Just the local guys get out there. Can you imagine in the past few years when the World Superbike guys would come over, and Ben and I being able to slot in? The fans, they would've come out of their hiding-holes to watch, to see what would happen. And then that gives them something - they're proud to say, then, that their local American Superbike series is kickin' ass, and they're as good as the World guys ...
Q: Or, you've got some more growing to do, or whatever.
A: Whatever it is. That's right.
Q: You've run teams in the past, and that's probably something that interests you. Does this series interest you?
A: Oh, not at all. Oh, God no. No. I wouldn't - I would prefer to stick a screwdriver in my eye, rather than having to race like this, yeah, with my own team. And that's a real shame. That's a real shame, because over the past few years, it's something I'd certainly consider, had considered. And now, as somebody who would want to be a team owner, you don't want to have to see Bike A, B, C allowed certain rules when you're not allowed to have them, and all this.
Q: Because you can fully envision yourself being Bike C, and these other guys being Bike A or B or whatever.
A: Yeah. But I mean, in the end, the rules should be the same for everybody, and that's that. If people don't want to play, then they don't play. You can't entice people into a championship because they're going to pay X amount of money, or whatever it is. That's ridiculous.