Suzuki’s Mat Mladin, who has won three straight AMA Superbike championships, should find the 2002 championship series a very tough test.
The just-completed Dunlop tire tests at Daytona not only had Mladin lagging Nicky Hayden, Anthony Gobert and others, but these tests underscored how serious all the factories are about winning the championship in 2002. With the exception of Yamaha’s Anthony Gobert, all of the top riders have quit 600 supersport to focus entirely on the superbike class.
Yamaha is investing very heavily in Anthony Gobert’s superbike effort this year. Although one might think that factory development of the R7 has stopped given Yamaha’s withdrawal from WSB, Yamaha has hired an experienced engine tuner (formerly with Kawasaki) to work full-time on Gobert’s R7.
If Yamaha finds the horsepower in the R7, Gobert and Nicky Hayden will give Mladin a run for his money in 2002. Kawasaki’s Eric Bostrom, who has also dropped out of the 600 supersport to concentrate on superbike in 2002, will have two strikes against him next year — the oldest bike in the paddock, and the loss of tuner Al Luddington. Luddington has returned to Honda to work, once again, with Miguel Duhamel.