Chris Vermeulen is setting his sights high ahead of his return to World Superbike competition in 2010, the MotoGP race winner bidding to get new employers Kawasaki back into the top five on a consistent basis.
Vermeulen, a former World Superbike runner-up with Ten Kate Honda, has spent the last four seasons racing with Suzuki in MotoGP, a tenure that has yielded one race win, in the wet at Le Mans, and six further podiums.
However, with Suzuki having already confirmed it is replacing the Australian with 250GP rider Alvaro Bautista next season, Vermeulen will join 'Team Green' in 2010 with the intention of reviving its fortunes at Superbike level.
Indeed, with Kawasaki, who pulled out of MotoGP at the start of the 2009 season, plotting to inject greater resources and funds into its World Superbike effort next year, Vermeulen is attracted to the challenge of re-establishing the manufacturer as a reckoned force.
“I spoke with Yoda-san (Kawasaki director Ichiro Yoda) and he convinced me that Kawasaki was prepared to put in large amounts of resources and attention into winning the World Superbike Championship,” he said. “That is what I want, to challenge and to win races.”
Having finished well behind its direct Japanese rivals in the manufacturer standings for the last four seasons, and not won a race since Chris Walker's 2006 triumph at Assen, Kawasaki is set to tap Vermeulen's experience to help develop a successor to the current ZX-10R in readiness for an anticipated debut in 2011.
With Kawasaki planning to step up its testing schedule for 2010, Vermeulen is excited at the prospect of being charged with helping the team return to some kind of prominence.
“I think that Kawasaki understood that my experience with electronics and so on would be a help in the development of the bike.
“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.”
While Suzuki contract requirements mean he will be making his first appearance with the team in a test at the Autopolis circuit in Japan next month, rather than at Portimao, Vermeulen is setting himself lofty goals for 2010, insisting he wants to be a regular top five contender straight away.
“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.”