Mat Mladin Article

A Moment with Mat: You Guys Are So Kind.
by mat mladin
Thursday, May 05, 2005

I was looking forward to the Barber race this year. We had a test there three weeks before and the new bike felt like it went around the race track by itself. We had a maximum points haul and extended the lead out to 21. If I had written a column last week I would have more to say about Barber, but I already know what happened at Fontana so I’ll start there.

Some people were surprised when I wasn’t overly upset about having a DNF on Saturday. Certainly it is disappointing for a little while, at least until you put it in perspective. When I say perspective I’m talking about the fact that this rarely happens to us and the last time we had a problem was approximately 50 races ago or three years ago.

DNFs are going to happen and that’s the reason we push to win—to get that points lead, it’s vital for when things go a little south. After five races we have four wins and a DNF, but are right there in the championship.

Sunday’s race turned out better and it was great to get the win. I understand all the complaints I’m hearing about how good the new Suzuki is. It is a constant buzz throughout the pits from the first time a wheel is turned on Friday morning. “Mladin would be getting his butt kicked if we had that bike.” I couldn’t agree more. Every time I hear the whining, I truly feel sorry for the other riders for Suzuki delivering such a great motorcycle!

“It pains me to say it, but the Suzuki is a good platform, a great Superbike, and if you’re looking for the reason Mat is winning, that’s a major factor.” Says Eric Bostrom. Hey, I couldn’t agree more.

There are a lot more quotes like this but I don’t have the time for it. It must be hard to promote your product when all your riders are doing is telling everybody how good the Suzuki is. As I said earlier, I agree it is an amazing motorcycle and why would you bother even looking at the other sport bikes that are on the market when all the guys that are riding them are telling you how good the 2005 GSXR 1000 is? And you don’t only have to take there word for it, you could pick up the latest magazines and look at all of the comparison tests and you will be hard pressed to find anyone around the world that hasn’t said the same as my competitors.

Then you get the people who see it in plain form. A simple formula that really isn’t that hard to figure out: A quote from Jim Leonard. “Look at the facts. Last year he was beating them on a bike that wasn’t as good as the current Suzuki. The new bike is clearly better than the old bike. Do they expect him to go slower?” Really pretty simple isn’t it? Didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.

You see, racing is just numbers. If you have X amount horsepower and the bike handles this good, and then you get more horsepower and the bike handles better, then the numbers (stopwatch in our case) should look better. For 2005 we got more power and better handling.

“I’m pretty sure they are using some sort of traction control over there,” Bostrom said… This quote is one of my favorites because of who said it. If I was this guy I would be zipping it until I could atleast get the most out of my own bike. Although after reading some of his quotes from the past few years he probably also believes that his bike is not the same as Neils. As a fan pointed out on the weekend. The best form of traction control is a limp right wrist. I have to agree. As you can see from the sticker on my throttle my guys are not slow in having a bit of fun.

“Mladin has this gadget, Mladin has that gadget.” All Mladin has is the desire to win, he has a bunch of down to earth guys who share that same desire. He is lucky enough to work for a company that loves racing and works as hard as possible to deliver racing products that work. What Mladin doesn’t have is the legendary crew chief who walks around the starting grid twiddling a screwdriver in his fingers saying there is a second in here, not the superman cape that he wears under his leathers for race day. Just plain old hard work from a bunch of guys who want it badly. If you wanted to see some long faces on Saturday you didn’t need to look any further than my pit. All the boys looked liked they had dropped a buck and picked up a quarter. They take it personal.

I went through some data after Fontana to do with throttle position between the three Suzuki riders. I have only briefed it quickly but will share a quick insight into how three different riders get the job done differently on the same motorcycle. We all have different styles of riding and we all believe our own style is the best. I have my own way of setting up a motorbike for my liking and typically no one else likes it. I like the bike to be very hard, I don’t care if it doesn’t soak up the bumps, I grab the brakes very aggressively, etc etc.

This data is from our fastest laps in race one: Over the lap I averaged 7.5% more time at 100% throttle. 7.5% of a 1:25.0 or 85 second lap time around Fontana equates to 6.4 seconds longer at 100% throttle per lap. Multiply that 6.4 seconds by the 28 lap race and you get 179.2 seconds or 3 minutes to make it easy. So over the course of a 40 minute race I spent 3 minutes more at 100% throttle. In my belief, there are many reasons for me being able to be at 100% throttle longer than my team mates. The numbers you see here make me happy because by me looking at these numbers confirms in my mind that my bike is set up to go faster around a race track at a more consistent pace than my team mates. These numbers are no surprise to me because I have looked at them before along with many others.

After reading all that, it is important to remember that the motorcycle is one thing that you can rely on to be a constant. The rider, on the other hand, is another story. I’ll go into more on that at a later date.

There is something about the old school way of racing that appeals to me more than the way I feel to many approach it now. In 1992 I was hired by my now crew chief who at the time was my team manager. I later remember being at Phillip Island for a round of the Australian championships, I had crashed on the Saturday and broke my collarbone. I remember waking on the Sunday to the sound of rain and was immediately happy, knowing that riding in the rain is so much easier physically. I got a good start and found myself in third position. To cut a long story short I drafted into the lead on lap three and about 5 seconds later I tucked the front in turn 1 at about a buck fifty. Adrenaline running hard, I made my way back to the pits to get ready for the next race only to find the team truck being loaded, I copped some verbal abuse and got told to go home and see you at the next race.

I remember thinking “**** that’s a bit harsh”. But to this day, I believe my treatment back then from the guys I worked with is part of the reason I managed to get it together and do okay. I remember being looked at by my then crew chief with the type of eyes that said “you’ve got to be joking”. I remember my team manager telling me I was full of crap. Oh yeah, I heard it all and they weren’t scared to say it. “If you didn’t like it, too bad.” It forced me to go out there and push harder. They didn’t talk behind your back after you had gone back to the hotel, no, if they had it on there mind, you knew it.

These days it’s about having the trickest pair of sunglasses, the coolest car or whatever else. The mechanics pander to the riders like they are some type of God. They don’t dare say the wrong thing to the rider, like “maybe it’s time you pull your finger out of your behind and ride the bike for all it’s worth”. Oh no don’t say that, cause if you do the little God might get upset.

I also had the other privilege of having parents, who, when the time came and I got a factory ride, left me alone, only to offer the advice of “good race”, “congrats” and “you’re acting like a jerk”. The congrats and you’re acting like a jerk came simultaneously at times. I never once was told that I’m not winning because my bike is not as good as the next guys. I was simply told to ride harder. I’m glad I had my parents and I’m glad I got introduced to professional racing the old fashioned way.

I can’t finish up without bringing up the pass Rossi put on Gibernau that made all the headlines. It took me a few weeks to get over the fact that it was such a major ordeal. Gibernau left the door open and Rossi wanted the win more than Gibernau. That’s as much as anybody should look into it. The fact that Gibernau urged on the crowd when Rossi was being booed shows his make up. The fact that Rossi loved it showed his. Rossi is only guilty of having more desire to win than most. Gibernau showed his true colors at the next race when he crashed after a light shower of rain. Waving his arms at the coMvU2tpbnMvQ2xhc3NpYy9JbWFnZXMvTWhe could see. I guess it was their fault that he crashed? He screwed up, and should take it like a man.

There have been a few incidents over here of the same nature. The most recent being between two-team mates at Barber. One ran off the track and the other took advantage of it. The post race comments seem to indicate that the guy behind should not have stuck his wheel in the gap even though he was the only one on the racetrack, rather, he was supposed to wait for his team-mate to re enter the track. I don’t think so. The door was open after a mistake was made. The gap was filled and the guy who made the mistake came out worse. Why is it always someone else’s fault? When the light goes green it’s Mano a Mano.

Infineon and Pikes are up next. I’m looking forward to them. Especially looking forward to Pikes. Even though it is a small track and for me not that exciting, I have also had poor results (actually “poor results” is an understatement) I’ve totally sucked there in the past and I plan on doing something about it. For some reason I haven’t got it together for that race and have spoken to my crew chief about it a lot. We’ll see what happens.

Ride smart and stay safe