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Mat Mladin Exit Interview

Friday, September 11, 2009
Now that hes retiring a champion  Mat Mladin will have more time for moments like this.
Australian Mat Mladin leaves America after an incredible career, which includes seven titles and 82 Superbike wins.
If you ask us, Mat Mladin did it right. The winningest rider in AMA Superbike history gave it everything he had and went out on top, seven championships in hand and 82 race wins to his name. Fans either love him or love to hate him, but that’s by choice as well. It’s no secret Mladin has always said what’s on his mind, never sugarcoating the facts to keep sponsors happy – and one can’t help but admire the man for that as well. In a sport so dominated by corporate coaxing, this Australian has always told it how it is – plain and simple. We caught up with the greatest just before he heads back home to Australia to start the next chapter in his life.

First off, what’s the one thing Mat Mladin wants to be remembered by?

For me it’s that I was always true to my word. If I said something, I meant it. Some people have said that now that I am financially stable I have nothing to worry about speaking my mind, but when I first came here in 1996 without a pot to piss in, and the first track I went to was Daytona. They asked me what I thought and I said it was crap! I had nothing and I still said exactly what I thought and that’s what I’m most proud of in racing.

With a career like yours it must be tough, but what would you say your favorite years racing were?

Spies and Mladin meet after Spies Race 1 victory
The best years of his career? Mladin claims it was the titles he lost to Ben Spies, who pushed Mladin every race.
The two years that I raced Ben (Spies) and lost the championship are without a doubt the fondest of my career. We were able to win more races than he did, I think I won 30 or so and he won 20, but he was smart and consistent and took both championships, but having someone of his talent pushing me was what really made racing fun.

Even my first years or where I was on a 750 against 1000s, there still wasn’t any time in my career where anyone pushed me like Ben did. Week after week we always had to be at the top of our game to race him and when I won those races that’s what really meant the most. That’s why for me, even though I didn’t win those championships, those years I will always look back on as my favorite.

This latest championship came, for lack of a better word, easy. Was it hollow feeling at all?

I wouldn’t say it was hollow, there just came a point in the season I lost interest. The first part on the ’08 bike the wins came easily and then on the ’09 bike, yeah maybe Tommy (Hayden) and Blake (Young) were somewhat closer, but that was about the time I decided this was my last year and I was done racing. Some like to say it was the bike, and if that makes them happy, then they can say that, but, really, I just lost interest. But was it hollow – no. We won the championship and loads of races so it was a good season for us and Suzuki and my guys.

A lot of the problem came down to not liking the bikes we were riding as well – I don’t like production bikes with stock wheels and suspension, as well as the people in charge and the safety aspect. I just read a press release somewhere about the safety changes DMG are going to make for next year and it talks about the bikes and the Pace Car, but there’s nothing about moving walls or making tracks safer, and that’s the biggest issue.

Say the old rules were in place and the old AMA in charge, would Mat Mladin be retiring?

Mat Mladin and Ben Spies continued their championship duel at Fontana
Mladin battles with teammate and rival Ben Spies, the two GSX-R1000 riders fighting bitter campaigns from 2006-2008.
I don’t think so. Actually, definitely not. I’d still be racing for sure. There was no plan for me to be leaving this soon with the old set of rules and people in charge. But with the way everything has gone this year it really made me look at things differently and changed everything.

Safety is huge on my list and always has been. You know, a lot of riders talk about how much they are about safety and how they are going to stand up for this and that, but when we visited Topeka for the first time and the track was clearly unsafe, everyone decided to ride anyway. Maybe they were fighting for second place in the championship and there was $50,000 on the line or something, but when it came down to it, I was the only Superbike rider who stood up for what I believed. A paycheck means more than safety to them, apparently. I know I caused some controversy but rider safety is number one for me and there was no way I was going to race there.

Jamie Hacking pulled out as well, correct?

Yeah, I was the only Superbike rider. But Jamie has always been a big advocate as well and he was one of the only other top riders to stand up and do the same thing even though many expressed how dangerous things were. And if only two guys are willing to stand up for safety then nothing is going to change. All of the riders need to be on the same side and until that happens these guys aren’t going to make the proper changes. This is why I knew it was time for me to focus on other things and move on from road racing.
Mat Mladin retires from American Superbike racing with a record 82 race wins and an unprecedented seven championship titles.
Mladin leaves on top of his game and after clashing with DMG and its running of the AMA road racing series.

I guess DMG is getting what they wanted, right? No more Suzuki dominating and no more Mat Mladin? (laughs).

Despite the issues, it still has to feel good to go out on top?

Yeah it was great to win the championship and go out like that, there’s no doubt. But it came pretty easily. And I know easy isn’t a word most would want to use, but by halfway through the season I was telling my guys I wished Ben was back. The first half of the year I was pushing and we were winning by 15 seconds on the ‘08 bike. Some have said with the ’09 bike things were closer, but look at Barber and the races when we first got on it – maybe we weren’t winning by as much, but we were still winning.

And if guys want to say that about the bike, that this was why I didn’t win by as much, go for it, but that’s when I started to lose that drive, to lose interest. And it all goes back to the competition. It just wasn’t there like I had it the previous years with Ben and with all the issues with the rules and the race organization – I knew it was time to retire. I had a good six months to really think about it, and with all the issues it helped finalize the decision for me.

Having children has to change things in regards to safety as well?

My kids are three and six now so I’ve been giving it 100% with children for a few years now, so it’s not like much has changed on that end. But like I said, I’ve always been big on safety, even 14 years ago when I first came to this county. And when you realize you are putting your life on the line on dangerous tracks so someone else can make money, that is when it’s time to really think about things. The racers have talked about safety all year but only a couple have acted on it. With the others too concerned about collecting a paycheck, nothing is going to change.

How have things been going for Mat Mladin the family man?

Now that hes retiring a champion  Mat Mladin will have more time for moments like this.
Less time racing, more time with the family... Mladin considers his family his greatest achievement.
Everything is great. I’m really excited to spend full time with my family in Australia. My children and my family are my biggest achievement and I really enjoy everything about it.

Will you still be involved in racing in any form in Australia?

My business (Bike Gear Warehouse) does a good bit with racing, we sponsor the factory road racing team in Australia and the motocross team, so I will be around in a business sense, but not as a racer. Mat Mladin as a road racer is done. I’ve made my decision and now I look forward to putting 365 days a year into being in Australia and focusing on my business and my family. I will be coming back to the U.S. from time to time as well and may drop by a couple races as a spectator as my business does a lot of work with American companies, so I won’t be gone from here for good, either.

I may also get back into riding some motocross and maybe do a bit of racing with the old man crew on the weekends, but just stuff for fun. It will be nice to get back to MX and have a bit of a go at it, but that will be the extent of me racing anymore, for a laugh.
Mat Mladin's Many Superbike Titles
Mat Mladin.
2009 - Champion - AMA Superbike Series
2008 - 2nd AMA Superbike Series
2007 - 2nd AMA Superbike Series
2006 - 2nd AMA Superbike Series
2005 - Champion - AMA Superbike Series
2004 - Champion - AMA Superbike Series
2003 - Champion - AMA Superbike Series
2002 - 7th AMA Superbike Series
2001 - Champion - AMA Superbike Series
2000 - Champion - AMA Superbike Series
1999 - Champion - AMA Superbike Series

1998 - 3rd, AMA Superbike Series
1997 - 3rd, AMA Superbike Series
1996 - 4th, AMA Superbike Series
2009 AMA Superbike Gallery
View Gallery
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View Slideshow
AMA Superbike Rider Bios
Ben Bostrom
Ben Bostrom has truly rode his way to international stardom. After winning the hearts of American race fans, Ben took his show overseas.
Larry Pegram Bio
Larry Pegram was born in Columbus Ohio and has been racing as a professional since 1988.
Jake Zemke Bio
All the hard work paid off in 2008 when Jake won his first AMA Superbike series championship by claiming the Formula Xtreme title that has eluded him for all these years.

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Gdadl -A great champion  November 16, 2010 08:18 PM
Matt is a great champion. When he was in AMA I watched every race. Since he has left I hardly watch it at all
Michael -great skillz- limited to the track  November 12, 2009 09:57 PM
Lost a lot of respect for this wanker when he "tweeted" : "AMA/DMG have broken so many of their own rules this wknd. The Buell is just 1 in a long list. Yamahas own rules also. Hitler wld b proud." Yeah, you tell them Mat- because wacked out rules and a FUBAR governing organization in the sport of motorcycle racing is so comparable to de Fuhrer who was responsible for the massive extermination of approx. 6 million Jews. Get over yourself, twittering idiot.
Louie -Sad to see you go  November 9, 2009 12:10 PM
I went to a race at Laguna Seca in Monterey Ca. After waiting in line for an hour for an autograph from Mat and Ben, I realized why everyone loves Mat. When Ben signed the autograph he would not even look up at his fans. He looked angry that he had to sign autographs, but Mat wasthe complete opposite. He addressed each fan and agreed to take photos as well. This showed me that Mat appreciated his fans and Ben thought they were a pain. Mat you will be missed.
Mike Mohr -Commited Racer, Fantastic with his fans.  October 27, 2009 06:00 PM
Matt was a great racer, but my respect for him grew tremendously when just after he won the championship at VIR, and he was tired and heading for his trailer, he took time to sign a poster for my 8 year old son. We had traveled 7 hours one way to watch Matt race and he didn't disappoint. Seven championships earned my respect as a racer. That act of kindness (taking time to sign a poster AFTER HOURS)! That earned my respect for him as a person! Thanks Matt for the show and the kindness!
Mays Family -Matt's retirement  October 23, 2009 03:18 PM
For the last six years we have been going to two races a year (alabama and road atlanta). At every race we have gotten your autograph more than we can count, your the best. Matt is always friendly and took the time to talk to us. He is a gentlemen and a hell of a rider. We will miss you and hope life treats you well. Your fans for life.
Mays Family -Matt's retirement  October 23, 2009 03:17 PM
For the last six years we have been going to two races a year (alabama and road atlanta). At every race we have gotten your autograph more than we can count, your the best. Matt is always friendly and took the time to talk to us. He is a gentlemen and a hell of a rider. We will miss you and hope life treats you well. Your fans for life.
Andrew -Competition  September 26, 2009 01:56 AM
Have to agree with brendon ,as with many on here i have watched Mat race for years and you just cant question his ability on a superbike and as he already elluded to it was the lack of competetion more than any other factor that seemed to dim his desire for racing, and being financially stable which he is and with at least 2 or 3 years of top level racing still in him i am sure suzuki would have welcomed him with open arms into worldsupers ,what a shame we wont see it happen!
DesmoDemon -Mat the champion's champion  September 21, 2009 12:02 PM
Mat made racing in the states to a higher level. His skill and fierce determination should be admired by everone. He spoke his mind and was correct to the end. Everthing he accomplished was done the old fashioned way-HE EARNED IT !!!!!! I hope his retirement is full of joy, we will miss him in the states.
jimbolaya -matt  September 20, 2009 07:09 PM
Last time I saw Matt was at Miller summer '07. Another spectator said he disliked Matt because Matt had no competition (except of course till Ben appeared) & Matt should have moved onto WSB or MotoGP. My view is this: the above opinion implies that it was easy for Matt. Really? Honda, Zemke, Duhamel aren't competition? Honda would have given anything to win an AMA SB Championship during the past 9 years...but they couldn't, & Matt is one of the biggest reasons Honda couldn't win.

Blessings to the Champ & his family!

Spitfire - respect from Central Europe  September 19, 2009 08:06 AM
Hi all! I was watching AMA and M.Mladin's racing for years.. I saw his fights against Spies. I have loved it. I'm sorry his leaving, but he lost his interest... without motivation nobody could does nothing. I hope he enjoys his retirement and finds his happiness with his family. Mr. Mladin, it was great! Congratulation and thank you! (I'm sorry for my english. It's under construction. ;) :) )
izattracing.com -The Shark  September 16, 2009 10:32 AM
Hector don't forget about carl fogarty he should be on that list also. Him and Scott Russel had many battles.. Kawi dominated with Scott and Honda with miguel ducati with Carl and Suzuki had Mat..
so al is left will be Yamaha and Ben Spies..
Hector -Cheers Matt  September 15, 2009 05:20 PM
Matt may not like stock wheels on his bikes and I would agree with him. Think and imagine any world class sanctioned racing and tell me if they use stock wheels. (It's a metaphor & fact)

How can racing fans find fault in Matt. He dominated AMA Superbike racing, When Ben & Nicky stepped up he never complained about the competion. Instead he worked harder, trained harder and demanded more from the sport. A true great champion.

Racing today in the AMA is much safer due to Matt and a few select riders willing to speak up. Let's hope DMG gets their act together and once we can provide the best racers on the best bikes on any Sunday.

Matt will be remebered as a great champion along with Miguel, Nicky, Ben and some of my old favorites to include,
Wayne Rainey
Scott Russell
Doug Chandler
Troy Corser
Doug Polen
Eddie Lawson
Jamie James
Enough said...

FearlessNSeattle -WSBK sucked until recently  September 15, 2009 03:48 PM
Until this year Ducati dominated WSK becuase of a displacement and a rules loophole that allowed to make more mods than the inline 4s. The competion wasn't better in WSBK. One could argue it worse. Hodgson was a WSBK champ but he could win jack here. Bayliss went to MotoGP and was average. AMA had Nicky, Miquel, Ben, Ben Bostrum, Eric Bostrom, etc. So really was the competion better in WSBK over the long haul I say no. People have a short memory here of WSBK
duckfan 410 -matt in wsb  September 15, 2009 01:46 PM
Brendon youre spot on bro. we all know how hard Suzuki markets their product in the states.what better way then to have Matt here cherry picking every weekend. any given sunday does'nt apply to Mr Matt.more like every sunday.
anth - track safety wheels suspension  September 15, 2009 12:52 PM
I don’t like production bikes with stock wheels suspension ,
moving walls or making tracks safer

what is it about production bikes with stock wheels suspension that are bad?

what are all the things that would make the tracks safer?
Brian -t j. what you say?  September 14, 2009 08:07 PM
Ok Spies was in ama ,now he is in wsbk and 2011 will be in motogp. Is That like pickin cherries? dont think so. He will keep pushing his limits and keep getting better. This is Spies first seson in WSBK. He is fast he is pushing and wants to be the best. I supose he could just come home from the world class and win all the races at home before he is to old. Did you ever take the training wheels off? Just leave um on and ride the sidewalk with all the 5 year olds. I dont claim to be fast or even in the same class as Matt Ben ect. I do feel if i had the chance i would have pushed to see how far i could go. I like a good beer once in a while. Training wheels and coolaid aint enough.
Mike -why not keep racing...  September 14, 2009 07:24 PM
Worlds? You should have asked him that.
Thomas - So. Canada -Mat Mladin's best years.  September 14, 2009 06:34 PM
I really enjoyed when he had a mullet and was controversial in everything he did. That haircut really exemplified his character. It was circa 2001-2002. Live on Mullet Mladin
FearlessNSeattle -Good comments TJ and JohnR  September 14, 2009 12:10 PM
Definitely agree with both of you. Matt was in MotoGP with Cagiva. Cagiva is hardly a company that a fighting chance in MotoGP. Kind of like Melandri on the Kawasaki this year for the Hayate racing team. Ask the Haydens what they think of Mladin. All of them have lots of respect for him
TJ -Uninformed Comments  September 14, 2009 09:58 AM
Brian........don't know much about racing do you? Ask Ben Spies what caliber of rider Mladin is/was. Unless of course you think Ben is cherry picking his way through WSBK too.
John R -A Riders Rider  September 13, 2009 06:58 PM
It is my belief that Matt was and is one of the best things to happen for the AMA racing group. Love him or hate him we went to the track to watch him. If anyone can show me where Matt lied about or cried about the outcome of a race please do, otherwise be proud we actually had someone who stood for safety, and stood up for the riders just like Kenny Roberts did on the world scene. Have a wonderful retirement and thanks for all the memories you have given us.
Brian- -Matt M. go Matt go! already  September 13, 2009 03:21 PM
To bad he could not have been better at world class racing. Remember his short lived GP racing? It got real old watching him cherry picking in America. Guess Suzuki pays good money in the US. Go Josh and all the others
Dany -Good Bye  September 13, 2009 09:27 AM
Probably the best superbike racer in the world ever. Or maybe not, top 3 for sure. Too bad he did not want to go to WSBK even at his age he would have kik ass. They have safe tracks. Go figure.
FearlessNSeattle -Too bad the DMG forced him out  September 12, 2009 08:16 PM
Brendan WSBK until this year wasn't that competitive. Except for Bayliss (I would have loved to see a Bayliss vs. Mladin match), the champs weren't that great Hodgson, Towsland, etc. Also remember Ducati has always had an unfair advantage in WSBK both in displacement and the modifications allowed. Ducati has dominated until this year.When Honda won the championship with Colin Edwards in was on the V-Twin RC-51. Bottom line he made more money in American cause Suzuki was smart and wanted a rider that would win consistently. Mladin give equal bikes would have dominated. It is to bad DMG took over. The Buell favoritism make the AMA DSB class a joke. It would have been great racing next year with Hayes vs Mladin. Hayes has always been a good rider now that he is on good factory effort he making most of the opportunity. An opportunity he should have had much sooner. The AMA should go to 2 classes Superport and Superbike. The reason that DSB racing was close this year was not the addition of the Buell but rather the collection of the best 600 riders in one class. Prior to this year they were split between Formula Extreme and Supersport. Buell should only be allowed to race in Superbike.
Brendan -Cheers  September 12, 2009 03:10 PM
Just seems strange that if he craved competition so much, he would have put up and gone WSBK.
Regardless, hope he enjoys his retirement!