Although he didn’t leave Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with much to show for it, Kurtis Roberts gave Mat Mladin fits in the two races in Ohio in 2003. Photo by Henny Ray Abrams

With MotoAmerica set to bring AMA Superbike racing back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, August 16-18, we’re taking a closer look at past Superbike races at the iconic racetrack in Lexington, Ohio.

Mat Mladin had a new challenger to his reign at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2003, and his name was Kurtis Roberts. But when all was said and done, it was still Mladin taking two victories on his Yoshimura Suzuki.

One race was close, very close. The other not so much.

In Saturday’s first race of the doubleheader, Mladin had his hands full with Erion Honda’s Kurtis Roberts, the youngest of King Kenny’s two sons. The pair were never separated by more than a second and the battle went to the final lap with the two exchanging the lead five times on the final go-around. It ended with Mladin winning his eighth race of the season and with Roberts in the gravel trap. Roberts remounted and finished seventh, but he was never in a better position to win the first Superbike National of his career.

Mladin (66), Roberts (80), Miguel Duhamel (17) and Jason Pridmore nail the start of one of the two Superbike races at Mid-Ohio in 2003. Photo by Henny Ray Abrams

A day later, the pair were at it again. Mladin was stronger this time around and better in the spots where Roberts was better a day earlier. When Mladin decided to up the pace, Roberts started to slow, his Honda suffering with transmission problems that would lead to his demise. By that time, Mladin had over six seconds in hand. Although Roberts would leave Ohio with only a seventh-place finish to show for it, he’d provem that he was the only man on equal footing with Mladin. At least at Mid-Ohio.

Mladin’s pair of victories were the 22nd and 23rd of his AMA Superbike career.

The next-best Suzuki rider at Mid-Ohio wasn’t Mladin’s Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Aaron Yates, it was Jason Pridmore. In what was his finest weekend of professional racing to that point, the Attack Suzuki-mounted Pridmore was second to Mladin in both races. Although he benefitted from Roberts’ demise, he was the one in position to capitalize, and the result was two second-place finishes.

Fourth and third on the weekend went to American Honda’s Ben Bostrom with his fourth- and third-place finishes over the two days. Mladin’s teammate Aaron Yates was fifth and fourth in the two races.

Mladin vs. Roberts in 2003. Photo by Henny Ray Abrams

Mladin would leave Mid-Ohio in 2003 with a 33-point lead in the championship over Yates with Ben Bostrom third, 26 points ahead of his injured brother Eric.

“Kurtis (Roberts) just made one little mistake,” Mladin said after race one. “That’s how easy it happens. But that’s one thing I wasn’t going to do. I wasn’t prepared to give everything away when I knew (Aaron) Yates was back in fourth or fifth.” “You can’t take anything away from that guy,” Roberts said. “Me and Mat can say whatever the hell we want in the press conferences, but I think we both know we’re not going to screw each other up with our head games – we just give everyone something to talk about. Mentally, he’s stronger than anybody out here, I feel. And I feel I am, too. My hat is off to the guy because he rode well.”