Chris Vermeulen will join James Toseland in switching from MotoGP back to World Superbike next season, after agreeing a deal with Kawasaki.

By the end of 2009, Vermeulen will have spent four full seasons in MotoGP with Suzuki - after three stand-in rides for Camel Honda in late 2005 - and is the only rider to win a MotoGP race with the GSV-R, courtesy of a lone wet weather victory at Le Mans in 2007.

The Australian has also scored more podiums (seven) and poles (three) than any other Suzuki rider since the start of the four-stroke era in 2002, with his best championship ranking of sixth (2007) beaten only by John Hopkins (fourth).

Prior to joining MotoGP, Vermeulen won the 2003 World Supersport Championship and then ten World Superbike races (from 45 starts) with Ten Kate Honda - for whom he finished second in the 2005 WSBK standings.

As such, and with the factory MotoGP seats already occupied, Vermeulen had a far better chance of achieving his aim of a competitive 2010 ride in WSBK.

However the choice of Kawasaki, without a podium finish since 2007 and with only one race win since 2000 - by Chris Walker in 2006 - has raised eyebrows.

Vermeulen is not concerned by the past results, pointing to a concentration of effort by Kawasaki on WSBK next year, which will be the Paul Bird Motorsport team's second year as a factory outfit.

"I spoke with Yoda-san [Ichiro Yoda, director of Kawasaki Racing] 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," explained Vermeulen.

Vermeulen also revealed that he will have to miss the first post-season WSBK test after his request to take part was turned down by Suzuki.

"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," he said. "So my first ride should be at Autopolis in Japan on 18th and 19th November."

But once Vermeulen is free to ride the ZX-10R, he will have a busy winter ahead of him.

"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!" he joked. "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 WSBK.

"I think we should start out [next season] with the aim of finishing inside the top five at every race and then see where we can go from there," he stated.

"Chris has the full backing of the factory next season and with the project we are creating now in WSBK with Chris, then I believe we can be very competitive next year," declared Yoda.

Kawasaki has won the World Superbike title once, with Scott Russell in 1993.

Vermeulen, joint tenth in the 2009 MotoGP World Championship with three rounds to go, will be replaced by 250cc star Alvaro Bautista at Rizla Suzuki next season, whilst Loris Capirossi remains at the team for a third year.

Capirossi is seventh in the standings and, like Vermeulen, has a best 2009 race finish of fourth.

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment