Queenslander Chris Vermeulen will go back to his Superbike roots next season after signing a two-year deal with the official factory Kawasaki Superbike World Championship team, pinning his hopes on an expanded effort from Kawasaki in a bid to fight for the title.
Australian Chris Vermeulen has made a shock decision to quit MotoGP at the end of this season in order to return to the Superbike World Championship with the official Kawasaki outfit.
The Queenslander has had a difficult season with the Rizla Suzuki team, causing him to turn his back on the premier class and return to the production-based WSBK series, a category in which he believes he’ll have equipment good enough to win with.
Vermeulen had been offered an opportunity to remain with Pramac Racing on a Ducati Desmosedici in 2010, along with a tentative offer from Hayate Racing Team if it can secure the funding to field a bike with Yamaha engines.
Instead, a return to WSBK racing is where he believes he’ll have his best hope of capturing another world championship to join his Supersport crown from 2003, hopeful that a ZX-10R with increased factory support will offer him the equipment required to race up front.
The deal is a two-year agreement, a deal which will reportedly see Vermeulen involved in the development of the all-new 2011 model ZX-10R – a major factor in Vermeulen’s decision to turn green.
Vermeulen last raced in World Superbike in 2005, finishing runner-up in the series to Troy Corser before moving to MotoGP with Rizla Suzuki the following season, scoring a single victory in grand prix racing at Le Mans, France, in 2007.
His best world championship result in the premier class was sixth in that same season, and he is currently 11th this year after a best result of fifth at Assen in the Netherlands.
Kawasaki will expand its WSBK support for next season after quitting MotoGP and AMA Superbike this season, and it’s expected that Vermeulen will be partnered by current Yamaha rider Tom Sykes.
The future of current Kawasaki Superbike rider Broc Parkes is unknown at this point in time.
Chris Vermeulen, one of the few riders to win both MotoGP and World Superbike races, has joined the Kawasaki World Superbike Racing Team for the 2010 season. Currently racing in MotoGP, Vermeulen will soon apply his talents to the official WSB Ninja ZX-10R and will get his first chance to ride the machine during tests in November.
Vermeulen’s career path after his initial successes in his native Australia saw him make his international breakthroughs in Asian and British Championships, with his first global success coming with ultimate victory in the 2003 World Supersport Championship.
A promotion to World Superbike in 2004 and 2005 culminated with the highly respected Vermeulen a close runner up in his second year on a 1000cc machine. His subsequent move to MotoGP netted him a win at Le Mans and six other podium places in more recent times.
During his previous WSB career Chris secured 23 podiums, including 10 wins, from 45 starts. His immediate aim for Kawasaki is to expand those already impressive statistics. Still only 27 years old, Vermeulen is a highly experienced rider who brings with him a burning desire to succeed, and the proven talent to make an impact in WSB racing.
With the arrival of Chris in the team for 2010 the entire Kawasaki World Superbike Racing team would like to say thank you to Makoto Tamada for his sterling efforts in the past two years. Makoto will leave the Kawasaki WSB structure at the end of 2009 with the very best wishes of all the Kawasaki family following him in his future endeavours.
Steve Guttridge, Kawasaki European Race Planning Manager, said of Chris’s arrival in 2010 : “The Kawasaki World Superbike team structure has evolved well in this its first year being run by Paul Bird and his experienced crew. For next year we realise that we need to make another step forward to be competitive at WSB level and we believe Chris could be the key to this. It’s an understatement to say we are looking forward to next season now, we just can’t wait!”
Ichiro Yoda, Director of Kawasaki Motors Racing – said: “Chris has the full backing of the factory next season and with the project we are creating now in WSB with Chris, then I believe we can be very competitive next year. We will make improvements step-by-step and we have a heavy test schedule planned already in order to do just that. Chris’ comments will be key to move the Ninja ZX-10R development in the right direction, so I’m very happy to be working with him.”