After losing his Rizla Suzuki MotoGP ride to current 250GP rider, Alvaro Bautista, Chris Vermeulen will be returning to the World Superbike ranks next year aboard a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. Before stepping up into the MotoGP class, Vermeulen had considerable success in World Superbike standing on the podium 23 times with 10 wins. The Australian will get his first test on the ZX-10R after the conclusion of this year’s MotoGP World Championship season.
As mentioned in yesterday’s WSBK Magny-Cours Sunday Insider, Kawasaki will not be competing in either MotoGP or American or Australian Superbike championships instead focusing purely on World Superbike.
“WSB is going to be their main project,” commented Vermeulen. “They are pulling out of MotoGP and they will not be running an AMA team nor a team in the Australian SBK championship – this WSB program is where all their engineers and budget will be focused. They haven’t won in WSB for a long time and they really want to win races.”
Check out the following Question and Answer session with Vermeulen:
Q: What was the major attraction of a partnership with Kawasaki, as you were also speaking with other manufacturers?
CV: I spoke with Yoda-san and he convinced me that Kawasaki was prepared to put in large amounts of resources and attention into winning the World Superbike Championship. That is what I want, to challenge and to win races.
Q: Did riding for a team based in the UK, where you started your global career, have its own attraction – because of the lack of language barrier, etc?
CV: Very much so, I have been lucky in the fact that most of my previous teams were naturally English speaking or who worked in English in the garage anyway. I know Paul Bird from my time racing in the UK, and I know that he runs a great outfit. Of course, with the language barrier not being an issue it can only be yet another positive aspect of the move to Kawasaki in WSB.
Q: How well do you know the guys in the Kawasaki World Superbike Racing team?
CV: I don’t know most of the other guys in the team that well, but I know that they are a good team and I am really looking forward to racing with them. I know some of the people from Kawasaki’s previous GP team from my experiences over the past few years. Some of those people will also be working on the project as well in 2010, so I’m looking forward to working with all of them.
Q: When will you get your first chance to ride the Ninja ZX-10R in anger?
CV: I was hoping to get a ride on the bike at the Portimao tests after the race there but my current team does not want to release me from my current contract until the GP season is finished, which is completely understandable. So my first ride should be at Autopolis in Japan on 18th and 19th November.
Q: Yoda-san has spoken of an extensive testing programme for you, how do you feel about this?
CV: I’m very happy and excited about this. There are so many limits on testing in MotoGP now that sometimes you have to wait so long you feel that you can forget what riding a motorcycle is! The provisional test schedule has around six or seven tests on it, so I am looking forward to being able to ride so often. I love racing and riding and that was another attraction about coming back to race in WSB.
Q: Do you think your recent MotoGP experience will help you make a quicker transition to a modern-day Superbike, because of electronics, etc?
CV: Yes, very much so, and I think that Kawasaki understood that my experience with electronics and so on would be a help in the development of the bike.
Q: How do you feel about going back to do two races per meeting and will it affect your training regime?
CV: I think I will change my training a bit to allow for two races per day. But the main thing is that I love racing, so to have two races per day means that I can have more fun!
Q: Which racetracks, that are not shared with MotoGP, are you most eager to get back to?
CV: I really missed racing at Imola, and Monza is another special, unique circuit. I would love to race at Kyalami again, even though I haven’t been there for quite some time. There will be some completely new circuits for me in 2010 as well, Miller, Salt Lake City and Portimao, but I am looking forward to racing on all of them.
Q: What is a realistic goal for you in 2010?
CV: It is really hard to say until I actually get a chance to ride the bike, but as a racer my first goal is always to try and win races. I think we should start out with the aim of finishing inside the top five at every race and then see where we can go from there.