Want to go on to World Superbike or MotoGP greatness? For the past decade, you had to beat
His devotees claim he's wired to win. His detractors argue he's a big fish in a small pond. Fans admire him for speaking his mind. Critics call him a whiner. Whichever side of the fence you're on, seven-time AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin is a racing phenom unlike any the series has ever seen.
Mladin's accomplishments are staggering: He set the high-water mark for race wins at 83-more than triple Miguel Duhamel's previous record of 27. He holds the record for the most wins in one season (12 in 2007), and has earned pole position 63 times. But without a doubt, his crowning achievement is winning the championship an unprecedented seven times-four more than his closest contender, former teammate Ben Spies.
Mladin was a success from the beginning. He won his first flat-track championship in his native Australia at age 9 in 1981. Inspired by countryman Troy Corser's successful switch from dirt to pavement, Mladin started roadracing in '89 and took the 250cc title just two years later. In '92 he moved up to Superbikes, and with 14 consecutive wins handily won the series. For '93 Mladin went to Europe for an ill-fated attempt in the 500cc Grands Prix aboard a Cagiva, after which he returned to Australian Superbike.
In '96 Mladin came to the U.S. and signed with Yoshimura Suzuki, finishing fourth overall. The Australian's dominance began in '99 and was interrupted only four times: once in 2002 by Nicky Hayden, and then three times in a row by Spies. Despite losing to the young Texan, Mladin admits he relished the challenge and considers the years racing Spies "without a doubt the fondest of my career."
Even at age 37-years after most professional roadracers have retired-there's no doubt Mladin could remain on top in the U.S., and perhaps even win races in World Superbike or MotoGP. But he's been racing for most of his life, and with a wife and two young daughters, nobody can blame him for hanging up his helmet.
Love him or hate him, Mat Mladin was the greatest Superbike racer America has ever seen.