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We Never Knew What We Had

After reading an article written by former WSB champion Neil Hodgson in Cycle News earlier today, I started thinking. Hodgson, by the way, left the World Superbike championship, and has raced in the AMA Superbike championship for several years. Hodgson, despite his obvious talent and experience (and support from factory Honda in recent years) has consistently been Smoked (note the capital “S”) by Ben Spies and his teammate Mat Mladin. Mladin and Spies existed in their own universe, far apart from anyone else, for several years before Spies moved on to the Yamaha WSB squad this year.

Are Mat Mladin and Ben Spies the two fastest superbike riders on the planet? Hodgson states Mladin (who probably beat Spies heads up on tracks they both were familiar with more often than Spies beat him, although Spies took the last few championships) would have at least one WSB title, and probably several, had he moved to the World championship several years ago. Everyone seems to understand that Mladin makes more money here in the U.S. than he would riding WSB.

So, perhaps, while we admired from afar the WSB “gods”, including Nori Haga, Troy Bayliss, Troy Corser, Max Biaggi, et al., we didn’t really know what we had right here in the States. Certainly, two of the very best on the planet, if not the best in the superbike game.

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MD Readers Respond:

  • I certainly appreciated what we had. For a couple of years, I have been saying that Mladin and Spies were in a class by themselves. Year before last, watching them battle at Barber was eye-opening. I nearly jumped out of my seat every time Mladin pushed way, way beyond a level that the other riders would have considered insane, while going through turn 1. Mladin’s total domination of Superpole today at Fontana is an samll indication of his superiority. And I suspect that without Spies there, he really didn’t run as hard as he could. If anyone thinks that the 1 sec M.O.V. at Daytona was anything other than Mladin Sandbagging, they are not really understanding what is going on. Unfortunately, DMG/AMA has managed to take a great racing series and drag it down the drain.

    Thanks for a great site. Keep up the good work. Greg

  • I agree, but it was a lopsided series. No fun. I haven’t had interest in Supercross for years for the same reason…..though this year may have a bit of a twist. DH
  • I really enjoy your site and read it every day. However when I read this
    one I just had to comment.

    Let me make it clear, I think Spies is one of the worlds best talents
    but he has yet to prove himself. I think it is too early to talk about
    him as WSB champion this year. I think the new Yamaha acounts for at
    least 40% of his performance so far, just read the motorcycle press (MCN
    for example) which put the stock Yamaha 1 second faster than any of the
    other superbikes on the test.

    My opinion is:

    You should take Hodgson’s opinion with a large dose of salt. He won his
    world titles in a depleted field riding the best factory supported bike
    in the WSB by far. There is a reason why he rides in AMA and not WSB or
    MotoGP anymore…. no one will give him a ride!

    To put Mladin in the same category as Bayliss and Biaggi is just wrong:

    1. Mladin and Spies were the only riders in AMA to have factory
    supported bikes. Those Suzuki’s are miles better than anything the
    competition could throw at them. Other teams, including Ducati, in AMA
    are amateur compared when compared with Suzuki.

    2. Bayliss has won on three different generations of Ducati and smoked
    the field in his last year on a brand new bike. Also remember when he
    smoked the rest of the MotoGP field on a guest ride? Biaggi was one of
    the few riders who could live with Rossi, easily the greatest of all time.

    If ‘Everyone seems to understand that Mladin makes more money here in
    the U.S’ then that says more about Mladin as a rider than his results in
    AMA. If Mladin could make that much in AMA, imagine what Bayliss or
    Biaggi could make moving from the world stage? But the point is they
    didn’t, they chose to compete at the highest level they could against
    the best riders possible in order to prove their credentials as
    superbike riders! That is the only way a superbike rider can prove
    himself, it’s a case of ‘put up or shut up’!

    Mladin is a great ***national** champion. Spies is a great **talent**,
    who has the opportunity to prove himself on the world stage. They are by
    no means ‘the best in the superbike game’! Lance

  • The same goes for our MX racers too! AJ
  • You are so right the talent we have (or had) in a.m.a. last few season was stellar. What i cannot understand is low attendance in spectators ? And you state that the riders get more money than w.s.b.?? Wow, keep up the great work. Marc
  • Some people knew what we had. Yes, Mladin is as good as or better than
    all those guys in WSB, and so is Spies (he’s better than Mladin at this
    stage of his career). I knew that, didn’t you? :-)

    I remember when Hodgson first came over here to race and was interviewed
    by an online ‘zine. He said Mladin would win WSB in his first year. He
    also said that he has never seen a rider push so hard and go so fast
    right off the bat in practice as Mladin does. I suppose that goes for
    Spies, too. We’ll never know for sure, but judging from how Spies is
    doing so far Hodgson’s claim doesn’t seem too hard to believe. Robert