Ranking The Top Ten SuperBike Champions - No. 1
NEWS February 11, 2014
Photo by Brian J Nelson
Written by Chris Martin:
February 11, 2014 - If any racer is going to take the title of 'Greatest AMA Pro SuperBike Champion' away from the legendary Mat Mladin, it has to be the man who built his legacy taking titles away from him: Ben Spies.
A champion is best defined by his rival. And there is no better argument for the Texan's position atop this chart than what he accomplished despite being thrown into direct conflict with the most decorated rider the sport has seen throughout the entirety of his AMA Pro SuperBike career.
Spies raced in AMA Pro Road Racing's premier class for four seasons -- just long enough to discard any brevity concerns regarding his candidacy. And he certainly made the most of those title campaigns.
Forged by the intense pressure of Mladin's presence under the Yoshimura Suzuki tent, Spies hardened into the ultimate championship-winning machine.
He was blindingly quick (as evidenced by his 24 poles), a supremely gifted racer (he racked up 28 victories), and consistently excellent like no other rider has been (his career SuperBike podium percentage is well above 90%, some 15 points greater than the next best).
Again, remember that this was all accomplished while locked in battle with Mladin and armed with identical equipment.
The two went head-to-head over Spies' four seasons. During the Texan's rookie year in 2005, Mladin's reign continued unchallenged. While the Aussie scooped up championship #6 with relative ease, Spies did manage to steal a win to go along with 14 podiums in total en route to a runner-up result in his first attempt.
With a year of experience under his belt, Spies stepped forward in a big way the following season. He shocked the paddock by stringing together six consecutive early-season wins. While Mladin never backed down -- and in fact, reinvented himself as an even more formidable competitor in some ways -- that run marked the start of a new era in AMA Pro SuperBike.
Spies went on to claim three consecutive titles ('06-'08) before graduating to the world ranks.
Spies' championship triumph in 2007 stands as the highlight of his AMA Pro career. In a winner-take-all finale at Laguna Seca, Ben tracked down an escaping Mladin late to win the race and defend his crown by a single point.
After advancing to the Superbike World Championship in 2009, Spies demonstrated just how high the level of competition between himself and Mladin had been elevated Stateside. Despite racing unfamiliar tracks against unfamiliar competition on unfamiliar equipment shod with unfamiliar tires, Spies decimated the world's best.
Due to a handful of random miscues and poor luck, the championship fight looked closer in the points table than it really was on the tarmac. But in the end, Spies stormed to the World Superbike title in his first and only attempt while proving beyond any doubt that he was class of the field. Spies won 14 races and eleven poles in one of WSBK's greatest individual seasons.
Spies' three straight AMA SuperBike titles followed directly by a World Superbike crown is almost certainly the most impressive four-year run ever in production-based racing history.
With nothing left to prove on a Superbike, the American moved on to MotoGP. There he earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 and was victorious at the Dutch TT in 2011, making him just one of seven racers to have won a MotoGP race since the start of the 2008 season. However, a bizarre combination of misfortune, mistake, and injury subsequently derailed Spies' blossoming Grand Prix career and forced him into early retirement.
That does not alter the magnificence he showcased earlier in his career, however.
They say if you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best. Spies did just that, three out of four times. That's all that really needs to be said to defend Ben Spies' claim as the greatest AMA Pro SuperBike Champion of all-time.
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