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Old 05-22-2009, 10:15 AM   #1
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Takes One To Know One

Bob Hannah on Mat Mladin
by dean adams

Having seen motocross legend Bob Hannah race--I saw his last win, in fact--I feel confident in stating that Bob Hannah and Mat Mladin are quite similar as both men and racers. When he raced, Hannah didn't care much for his competitors, didn't go out of his way to make sure everyone still liked him at the end of every weekend. And, Mat Mladin is, as everyone is well aware by now, the same way. Back when he raced, some viewed Hannah as arrogant, but from his perspective it wasn't arrogance if it was the truth. Ditto with Mladin. Hannah won seven AMA national championships in his time while Mladin is currently stuck at a mere six. Hannah nearly destroyed his leg in a non-motorcycle crash which played havoc with his career. Mladin's ankle is or was fused from his early 1990s ultra-light plane crash. Away from the sport of motorcycle racing, they were both drawn to the sky and love aviation. Mercurial to the bone and with a familiarity born from being somewhat charming rouges, Hannah and Mladin became fast friends.

Anyone who says they understand riders is a liar. Unless, they are themselves a rider, perhaps? I had an opportunity to talk to Bob Hannah about Mat Mladin and started off by asking him about what kind of pilot Mladin is, and generally, do motorcycle racers make decent pilots?

"He's an amazing pilot but he's different than your average guy," Hannah explained. "I think he's a high-strung cat, and very, very determined cat. I feel like I'm a lot like him. Mat, you either like Mladin or you hate him. My opinion of him, he's not out there really to make friends. When he's on the track, he's there to win. The same I was. I don't think he cares to have a love affair with any of the other riders, and neither did I. I didn't come there to have a love affair with the riders. And I don't think he cares if you like him or you don't like him. But I can relate to him. I mean, he is what you call the epitome of a racer. And some guys don't like racers. Some guys don't really like the epitome of a racer. They want some candy- politician, and that's a long ways from being Mat Mladin."

Hannah, who now sells airplanes and has raced planes previously, knows a good pilot when he sees one. Mladin is one, according to Hannah. But how is it that a motorcycle racer can just flick into a very complicated activity like flying and be proficient at it? "I think it's just being able to figure something out," Hannah says. "How to lay a motorcycle in - when you're coming 115 mph into a corner, and you just look at the corner and you see the apex, you don't really stare at the apex, but you see where to start to lay it in, you feel where to start to get on the throttle, you feel when to let off the brakes. That's all feel. You don't learn that from a book. And Mat, for the hours that Mat has, he's awesome."

Before further explaining how it is that racers make good pilots, Hannah takes a brief explanatory detour to talk about a professional who typically doesnt make great pilots in his opinion: doctors.

"I've seen doctors, many, many doctors in the world," Hannah explains, "I've flown with a lot of them, I've talked with them, ... and they're sh*t. All of them. Every doctor I've ever flown with is sh*t. Terrible. A doctor is a very, very educated guy, and book-smart character, or obviously he wouldn't be a doctor. And really that doesn't make a pilot: the educated, book-smart guy. The guy that's really good with his hands and feet and eyes and drives a tractor really well, or a bulldozer really well, makes a lot better pilot than a doctor."

"I've seen about, oh, half a dozen motorcycle guys that have become pilots, and so far all the ones I've seen that were really, really good on a bike, were really, really good in an airplane. For example, a doctor wants to read about everything and think he understands everything, and at that time, he thinks he can do it, where he can't buy experience. And experience is what really helps you land on that hill. It seems that I can take a motorcycle guy, and I can get him in the front seat, and I can land him on that hill, and show it to him twice, and I say, "You see how that was done?" No bookwork, and not too much talking about it, but show him how it's done, and then he can replicate that very well. And that's how Mat flies."

Hannah, who was nicknamed "Hurricane" when he raced motocross, was infamous for being disliked by his teammates and rivals. For probably the same reasons that none of Mladin's teammates or rivals have scrapbooks celebrating any of Mladin's victories. According to Hannah, Mat's competitiveness transcends any vein of normal competition. "You want to go bicycle riding? When you go bicycle riding, he's going to be strategizing all the way, wanting to whip your . If it's a chess game, he's going to want to beat you in a chess game. If you're going flying, he's going to want to put it on a bigger hill than you. I mean, that's just Mat Mladin. A real racer without an ego is a piece of sh*t. A real racer without an ego is a piece of sh*t. He's just not a racer."

"Mat's a serious competitor. I wouldn't want to be up against him. It would be up against a tough guy. I don't care what you're doing. Running? Riding bicycles? Fighting? Riding? Whatever. He's an adversary. I think you'll like Mat Mladin--if he's on your side. If he's not on your side, you don't like Mat Mladin."

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Old 05-22-2009, 10:21 AM   #2
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Very cool writeup! Bob Hannah was THE man back in the day. Cool to see him talking about Mladin like that

I bought my dad the Bob Hannah Motocross files for Christmas, he said he had raced with him before. We must have watched that thing 10 times since then.

I just got him Rick Johnson MX files for his birthday and we have watched it twice already
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Old 05-22-2009, 10:22 AM   #3
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I'm sure a lot of people overlook the fact that they ARE there to win otherwise, what's the point? Good find.
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