Ever since Ben Spies entered the World Superbike championship, all eyes have been on his former teammate at Yoshimura Suzuki, Mat Mladin. The 7-time AMA Superbike champion initially decided to stay in the US, but his disillusionment with the way the DMG - the rights holders for AMA Superbikes - was running the series became more and more prominent, and he eventually announced his retirement from racing at the end of July 2009.
At the time, speculation was rife that this retirement was merely from the AMA, and that the Australian veteran was planning a secret return to World Superbikes for the 2010 series. Mladin denied it, telling Superbikeplanet.com's Dean Adams that he intended to stop racing altogether once the 2009 AMA season had concluded.
a couple of world superbike offers have come my way in the past month. 1 of them very good in regards to machinery. decisions decisions ;-)
Mladin has previously denied that he would be interested in making a return to the world stage, after experiences with lesser teams and on lesser equipment left him disillusioned. He would only go if he was offered a ride on a top bike with a top team, he said, and he wasn't holding his breath, as the World Superbike paddock was singularly unimpressed with the level of racing in the AMA.
Ben Spies' success changed all that. Noriyuki Haga was the only man capable of challenging Spies on a regular basis, and he did so on the bike and with the team that had won the 2008 championship. If Spies was so good, the thinking ran, and Spies had so much trouble beating Mat Mladin, then how good must Mladin be?
Good enough to land a prime offer in World Superbikes, it now appears. Mladin has long been linked to Yoshimura Suzuki's return to the World Superbike paddock, and with the situation in the AMA still looking grim and the Japanese branch of Yoshimura fielding wildcards in World Superbikes in 2010, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Mladin could ride in WSBK next season. With all the factory seats already taken, that narrows Mladin's options down considerably, but that single Twitter posting does raise a mouthwatering prospect. Could Mladin do a Spies? We'll know soon enough ...
~~~ UPDATE ~~~
Visordown is reporting that the team Mladin is being linked to is the new BMW privateer squad, which we reported on last week. According to Visordown, Alfred Inzinger, who ran the Power Horse Ducati squad that Troy Corser won his first World Superbike title on, has become involved with the Reitwagen Racing BMW squad, due to field Roland Resch in 2010. Dutch website Racesport.nl had already alluded to rumors that the team were chasing a big name rider to go alongside the inexperienced Resch, and few names are bigger than Mat Mladin.
Mladin would certainly be a huge PR boost for BMW, and help the team secure strong support from the Bavarian factory. What's more, Mladin has in the past sworn that he would not go to WSBK unless he had assurances about the level of machinery and the level of competence in the team. With the team being managed by a former world championship-winning manager, and strong backing from Germany, this could be sufficient for Mladin to change his mind.
It's all just rumor for the moment, but there's an awful lot of pieces that seem to make sense.