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2009 Mat Mladin Suzuki GSX-R1000 Test

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Even though the engine is essentially stock below the cylinder head  the Yosh guys have squeezed around 180 horsepower. Thats nearly a 20 horsepower increase over stock. Combine that with much shorter final drive gearing and the bike accelerates much faster than a production bike.
The machine that helped Mat Mladin win an unprecedented seventh AMA Superbike Championship: The 2009 Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike.
Sixty-two pole positions, 82 race wins, and seven AMA Superbike championships. This is the legacy of the most dominant motorcycle road racer America has ever known – Mat Mladin. Records like this don’t materialize without absolute harmony between man, machine and team. And it’s this alliance that allowed Mladin and his Yoshimura team to claim all but four of the his aforementioned race victories aboard Suzuki GSX-R Superbikes.

Upon the conclusion of the 2009 AMA American Superbike Series, which saw the 37-year-old Australian capture an unprecedented seventh title, the Yosh squad offered us the rare opportunity to get exactly 10 laps aboard the No. 1 Suzuki GSX-R1000 at California Speedway. The test would consist of five laps on both the primary and back-up bikes, which were set-up almost identically to the way Mladin had them dialed during his final race outing at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The only variation being the fitment of a more modest-rate fork spring, due to Mladin running an insanely stiff setup to compensate for the enormous loads generated by The Champ during hard braking.

Waheed studies the controls before heading onto the track.
Waheed studies the controls before heading onto the track.
With lighter 10-spoke wheels, larger, more powerful brakes, an abundance of Yoshimura Race Shop (YRS) kit parts, plus enough onboard electronics to guide a missile, Yoshimura’s American Superbikes are plenty trick. Sure, they don’t offer as much performance as the less-restricted AMA Superbikes of yesteryear, but this Yosh GSX-R1000 is still one hardcore road racing machine.

Jumping into the skinny foam seat, Mladin’s bike feels tailor-made for me (one of the benefits of sharing similar body measurements as both of us stand around six-feet tall). The seat is long and offers just enough room to slide my body beneath the windscreen and out of dirty air. Grab the handlebars and you’re angled closer to the machine than a production GSX-R. The positions of the control levers can be described as customary and aren’t unusually high or low, while the Yosh-manufactured foot controls shove my lanky legs right into the aluminum fuel tank with perfection.

In addition to the ignition button, the right handlebar has two buttons which activate the launch control system and the pit-lane speed limiter. The left handlebar houses an up/down toggle switch to navigate through various functions (including data logging) on the MoTeC LCD dash, as well as adjusting the wheel spin setting. It’s flanked above by a red switch which allows the rider to jump between engine maps on the fly. Below is the engine start button.

Although  Mladins Superbike is plenty fast  having never piloted a Superbike before we thought it would be even faster. Apparently they were-to the tune of almost 20-30 horsepower quicker before the Daytona Motorsports Group rule change.
Although, Mladin’s Superbike is plenty fast, having never piloted a Superbike before we thought it would be even faster. Apparently they were—to the tune of almost 20-30 horsepower quicker before the Daytona Motorsports Group rule change.
A remote adjustment above the button cluster knob allows the rider to move the position of the front brake lever fore or aft to combat brake fade during long races. We had to bring it back a few millimeters closer to the handlebar in order to fit my medium-sized hand. Thumb the starter button and the engine fires up and settles into an elevated idle. Notch the gear shift lever down into first gear (Mladin runs a conventional one down, five up street bike shift pattern due to limited ankle mobility from his infamous ultra-light aircraft accident) and let thy shredding commence.

Pin the throttle and the tweaked 999cc engine picks up revs way faster than stock, which is surprising considering that the series’ rules mandate that everything below the cylinder head gasket remain nearly bone stock. Impeccable fuel-injection and throttle response contribute to a smooth, deceptively effective power delivery. Bottom-end muscle quickly and seamlessly morphs into a modest mid-range hit. Worry not fellow adrenaline junkies! As the engine closes in on redline it shrills to life, emitting an epilepsy-inducing shriek while flinging you forward with voracity akin to Ducati’s Desmosedici D16RR MotoGP-derived street bike; it’s here where you really need to hold on. Let the workout begin.

The 0.5-degree difference in steering rake between Mladins A-and-B bikes was highly noticeable. The B-bike turned into the corner much more quickly. So much in fact that it took a few laps just to get acclimated with its quick steering members.
The 0.5-degree difference in steering rake between Mladin’s A-and-B bikes was highly noticeable. The B-bike turned into the corner much more quickly. So much in fact that it took a few laps just to get acclimated with its quick steering members.
Pavement and time start to blur as you race through the massaged six-speed gearbox. There’s no need to back off the throttle between gear shifts as the engine management system cuts ignition for a fraction of a second allowing it to slide effortlessly into the next cog.

Due to the more modest state of tune, keeping the engine zinging near max revs is crucial. Mladin’s bike employs a sophisticated and ultra-high-dollar Magneti Marelli wheel spin control system to assist the rider in maximizing drive during acceleration. Unfortunately, due to the limited seat time (and courage), we weren’t able to explore the system’s functionality while on the side of the tire. But we can tell you that it has sufficient logic built-in to permit the rider the ability to spin up the rear Dunlop slick with no pause in acceleration as you pick up the bike off the corner and transition from lean to straight up and down.

A production Showa fork with Ohlins internals is clamped by Yoshimura triple clamps that allow for offset adjustment.
A production Showa fork with Ohlins internals is clamped by Yoshimura triple clamps that allow for offset adjustment.
An Ohlins steering damper works in conjunction with plastic bumpers mounted on the headstock to limit headshake. Mladin doesn’t run a whole lot of damping, thus the front end dances around during flat-out acceleration. Overall, the chassis is considerably tauter than its street counterpart and responds best when handled with an elevated level of authority. And when I say authority I mean throwing it as hard as you can into the corner and then picking up the throttle as early and hard as your brain will tolerate. This has always been Mat’s trademark style and it shows.

Suspension-wise, the Yosh SBK uses an Ohlins TTX-series gas-charged shock absorber out back working thorough a YRS linkage. At the front, a production Showa Big-Piston Fork with Ohlins internals attaches to the frame via YRS triple clamps that allows for steering head angle adjustment. The B-bike featured reduced fork offset, which aided in the steering while only minimally compromising overall stability. It was definitely our pick of the two machines.

Surprisingly, suspension balance front-to-rear seemed a bit off, the bike transferring weight to the front much faster than anticipated during braking. Conversely, the rear end felt spot-on, with it responding better during rapid maneuvering and strong throttle input. While the bike does change directions quicker than its headlight-equipped brethren, it still requires some serious muscle to get it pointed in the right direction. Hence, it’s not much of a surprise that it steers best with the front brakes trailed on – and hard.

Forged magnesium JB Power Magtan wheels are shod with Dunlops spec racing slick in sizes 125 80-17 front  195 65-17 rear.Despite the more production based rules  Mladins Superbike makes use of a number of key mods that help it perform better on track. Note the larger radiators and swingarm pivot inserts. Yoshimura will sell you this exact motorcycle for around  80 000.
Despite the more production based rules, Mladin’s Superbike makes use of a number of key mods that help it perform better on track. Note the larger radiators, swingarm pivot inserts, and new for 2009 streamlined bodywork.

Fortunately, serious trail braking is what the Brembo braking components are designed to do. Not only does the set-up offer plenty of wheel stopping force, they do so with an immense level of feel, making them easy to modulate. Equally impressive is how adept Dunlop’s spec front race slick is at gripping the asphalt, especially when loaded. The same could be said for the rear rubber, which like the front, had a rigid-feel to it reacting favorably with a firm twist of the right grip.
It was surprising how much effort was required to get Mats GSX-R1000 to turn.  Although the DMG folks took the Super out of Superbike these bikes still arent easy to ride.
Simply put, Mladin’s Superbike doesn’t perform right if you’re lollygagging around the racetrack. It requires you to exert every ounce of muscle from corner entry to exit and everywhere in between in order to get the chassis to perform properly. After only 5-laps, I felt like I was about to pass out. Seriously.

Despite the AMA/DMG rules package taking an edge off the Superbikes this past year, make no mistake about it—the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 still serves up race-winning levels of performance. It demands immense focus to keep the engine zinging on the pipe during acceleration and pin-point mental accuracy when it’s time to throw anchor. Not to mention the heavy degree of body English needed to get it turned and the even higher levels needed to keep one from being tossed off at speed on corner exit. It’s a wild and tempestuous ride, injected with much of the same demeanor as the man who piloted it to unprecedented heights in American road racing. There will only be one Mat Mladin. Likewise, one bike will forever be mentioned alongside the champion’s name, the Yoshimura GSX-R1000 AMA Superbike.
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Did you miss the 2009 AMA Superbike season? Want to relive Mat Mladin's final championship? Check out Motorcycle-USA's 2009 AMA Superbike results archive  to find all 2009 AMA Superbike news, race reports, and pictures from each round.

Check it out: AMA Superbike 2009 Results

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Jordan -Credit  March 9, 2010 12:16 PM
It's a shame that AMA didn't re-evaluate their approach to take advantage of Mladin's talent for the bettering of the American road racing scene. I really wish the two could of come to terms somehow because now it's just a waste to not have Mladin's talent around any more. I think that point illustrates how American motor sports has kinda' made itself irrelevant on the international level because our racing efforts should ultimately be aimed at competing globally, but besides what we'e seen in WSBK and MotoGP with Spies and Hayden, it unfortunately isn't the case . Besides, if Mladin had been given a solid ride in WSBK, I can only imagine the harassment he would give Haga on the track. But then again I wish more kids were out club racing than playing pee-wee football. But to get back on topic, I think Mladin's bike and it's tuning reflect the rider's mindset crystal clear.
Race Fan -Mladin  March 4, 2010 11:53 AM
Spies, Edwards, Hayden may all of beat Mladin. Everyone here is forgetting that if Mladin wasn't their to push them then those names might not be as known as they are.... You gotta stop hating on the man. He may be an ahole but he was an ahole with nothing but raw talent that was harvested into 7 championships. Everybody here knows a win is a win no matter where you win. Yes i would love to see Mladin in WSBK and/or MotoGP giving them a run for their money. I hate to say it but if your are a true race fan then you can't help but to say damn Mladin was a monster on the track. If that bike was yours you would probably be the next Mladin yourself winning 7 championships. While others riders know the way to MOTOGP and WSBK was through MLADIN.... I wouldn't mind that title. Call Me MLADIN JR.
Fralic -socalmoe  March 4, 2010 11:28 AM
In GP this guy would be a mid-packer at best” What’s funny is Mladin’s qualifying time for the Laguna Seca SBK race (2005,2006,etc.) would have been mid pack for Moto GP. That’s right, his production based GSXR1000 superbike was running qualifying times that would have put him in 10th position on the Moto GP grid. That’s right you read it correctly. Mladin’s qualifying time for the Laguna Seca round SBK race was fast enough to place 10th on the starting grid of the Moto GP race that was on the same day and same track. Wonder what Mladin could have done if his SBK made say 40-50 more hp, weighed 50-60 lbs less, had carbon fiber brakes, Million dollar$$$ electronics and the stickiest motorcycle tires in the world…

At least you were right about one thing Mladin would run mid pack with Moto GP, but you forgot to mention that he can do it with a Superbike…LOL.

“He was a well financed big fish in a small pond”. Yeah right, and I suppose Honda’s HRC can’t compete “financially” with a motor bike company 1/5 its size…
socalmoe -Funny.....  March 3, 2010 06:29 PM
how no team either on WSK or GP asked this arrogant a-hole to run one of their machines. In GP this guy would be a mid-packer at best. He was a well financed big fish in a small pond.
R34 -Re:Fralic - Mladin  March 3, 2010 03:01 PM
Well said...
Fralic -Mladin  March 3, 2010 02:23 PM
John Hopkins raced in “real” championships, actually two Moto GP & WSBK, and right now he can barely get into the top ten in practice for Daytona. Neil Hodgson raced and won a “real” championship, actually two BSBK & WSBK, but Mladin bitch slapped him with a non-current bike. Nicky only beat Mladin because he had a RC51 and Mladin had a little 750cc. The RC51 even dominated WSBK for two seasons including the Ducaties. Ben Bostrom raced in a “real” championship and Mladin raped him. The only person on the planet so far that has come close to beating Spies has been Mladin and Spies killed the WSBK paddock.

Funny how nobody had a problem with Duhamel staying in AMA for decades and most of his racing success was in 600SS…a support class. At least Mladin stayed in SBK and didn’t cherry pick championships by racing with rookie 19 yr. olds in 600SS.

Mladin could have gone to WSBK or go back to Moto GP for a second time (he raced in Moto GP in the early 1990s) but he also could have stayed in AMA and win 7 championships. There are a lot of racers that have raced their entire careers in AMA but don’t have even one SBK win let alone 7 titles.

Steve -A loss  March 3, 2010 12:02 PM
I hated to hear that Mladin wasn't going to come back and race this year. I've really enjoyed watching him race and win week after week the past 10 years or so. What makes it worse is knowing that he would have continued to race had it not been for DMG's rule changes & poor management. I'd love to see him compete in WSBK in 2011 as I think he would run at the front of that pack as well.
AnyonebutTony -Tony sucks  March 3, 2010 11:49 AM
No he's not the greatest American road racer, Tony. He's not even American. I don't understand the rational for posting trash about a guy who reached the pinnacle of achievement in his sport at such a high level. I've watched him race and have the utmost respect for him. Top level, phenomenal talent. Mladin contributed so much to the sport and entertained us with his racing ability. For all intents and purposes, he kept the sport alive in America. The crotch rocketeers on here with their snide comments are undoubtedly the crash and burn street racers with no talent and even less brains, sending our insurance rate skyrocketing...are you listening Tony?
Eric -Idiot, he doesn't suck  March 3, 2010 11:21 AM
I think Mladin deserves more respect then he's getting on here, the guy is a great rider and I have no doubt he could compete in World Superbike. After all, he gave Spies all he could handle; which is more than I can say for 95% of the WSBK riders last year. So I think he'd be somewhere around a Haga level rider, but not quite up to Troy Bayliss level, but who knows because he never took the chance. It's a shame for him and a shame for the sport that we'll never truly know.
zx14 -Really?  March 3, 2010 09:38 AM
"After only 5-laps, I felt like I was about to pass out. Seriously." pussy ;)
Jimmu -Tony - Clown Shoes  March 3, 2010 08:39 AM
Tony - Nicky beat Mladin, what once? Mladin kicked Nicky's ass for years (3 out of 4). Take Nicky's nuts out of your mouth and respect Mladin. Fool.
R34 -Mladin  March 3, 2010 08:36 AM
7 Championships! Whether you haters like him or not, this is the facts. Think of it this way, that was 7 entire years no other team or rider bested this sap...AND, it's carved in the books. Stop whining about the should have could have would have hypotheticals of what this rider could have done on the world stage. I'm not a Mladin fan, maybe this is because he wasn't personable that I never really got to know this guy on camera, i was always just neutral...but who cares. Most say he was a complete ahole...Mladin doesn't hold a candle to Biaggi, and that doesn't stop me from cheering Aprilia on. It's all about work ethic with Mladin which seemed like an OCD thing, but it worked. Mladin is gone which is tragic, to me there is a guy in retirement that could smoke the AMA field with ease...and with no clear title favorite this year just translates to average talent...no disrespect to Hayes and Hopper, but c'mon...Mladin made the paddock WORK!
BRKNtibia -Race Facts  March 3, 2010 06:55 AM
Tony - When did Colin beat Mladin? All I can think of is the WSB races at Laguna. Edwards was long gone by the time Mladin raced AMA.
HokieNinja -Mladin  March 3, 2010 06:10 AM
Which isn't to say that Mladin wouldn't kick my ass up and down the track, along with most everyone out there. You still have to respect the talent.
HokieNinja -Mladin isn't an American  March 3, 2010 06:06 AM
Not that I don't agree that Mladin is overrated, but stop comparing him to the American young guns of Spies, Edwards, and Hayden. Mladin is Australian, not American. He just happened to jump the pond to race a different national series. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say he is not the greatest AMA road racer.
Philip -Mladin 's retired !  March 3, 2010 05:23 AM
I agree with Tony ! Mladin is just old and he can not go on to bigger and better championship. Even if Mladin go, there's still very slim chance of winning races out there. Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Nicky Hayden are the true young American racing champions. They have what it takes to be in the world league: courage and determination to push hard for the checked flag.
Tony -Mladin Sucks  March 3, 2010 12:22 AM
He could never make it on the world circuit. He's a "minor league" champion seven times over. Who cares. He is not the greatest American road racer. Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Nicky Hayden are all more successful than him. They have all beaten Mladin and moved on to bigger and better things, winning real championships. Stop kissing his ass.