Vermeulen to try for a Donington comeback
Chris Vermeulen is set to make his World Superbike comeback at Donington.
Vermeulen to ride at Donington
Queenslander Chris Vermeulen is making his long-awaited return to World Superbike competition in the second round of this year’s championship at Donington on March 27.
After sitting out the Phillip Island round in February to allow his injured left knee more time to recover and regain movement, Vermeulen believes he “can run at the pace he needs to” at Donington – but whether he can sustain such an elevated level of performance over three days is the big unknown.
“It would be stupid of me to expect to come back after such a long layoff and go quick straight away,” Vermeulen told British magazine SuperBike. “But I do feel that I can run at the pace I need to. What I don’t know is if I’ll be able to maintain the pace all weekend. Quick on race day? Easy. Quick all weekend? Not sure yet.”
Either way, just being on the grid will be a huge relief for Vermeulen, who has – other than a few exploratory laps on a variety of circuits — not ridden a motorcycle at full speed for around nine months.Vermeulen will be joined by compatriots Troy Corser (BMW) and Mark Aitchison (Kawasaki) at the fast and flowing circuit in Leicestershire, where cool temperatures and possible rain could provide an additional challenge and make way for some upset results.
The Aussie trio will be joined at Donington by top brass in the form of Carlos Checa (Ducati), world champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia), Marco Melandri (Yamaha), Leon Haslam (BMW), Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki) and Jonathan Rea (Honda).
Checa leads the championship after an utterly dominant display at Phillip Island, which saw him romp to victory in both races ahead of Biaggi. Haslam and Melandri – in his first WSBK outing after switching from MotoGP – shared the third places.And Checa will also fancy his chances at Donington, where good set-up rather than outright top speed – something his twin-cylinder Ducati lacks against his four-cylinder rivals – is the key to success.
Corser struggled to get into a groove at Phillip Island, but he’s now looking to hit back at a circuit where he was double winner way back in 1996.
“I am really looking forward to Donington Park,” said Corser. “Like Phillip Island, it’s another track which I enjoy racing at and normally perform well at so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. We’ve identified a few issues from Phillip Island that we need to address before Donington, but otherwise I am confident we can make that next step further and be competitive.”
“The layout of the circuit is great – really fast and flowing – especially through Craner Curves. I am just looking forward to racing there again and seeing how we perform.”
Aside from Corser, the only other Donington WSBK winner on this Sunday’s grid will be Japan’s Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia), who would love nothing more than to taste victory to give his beleaguered countrymen something to cheer about.
Donington is also the home circuit for Corser’s factory team-mate Haslam, while the other British riders, Leon Camier (Aprilia), Rea, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) and Eugene Laverty (Yamaha), have also pushed out plenty of fast laps around the 4.023km circuit.
Donington hosted the first ever WSBK round in April, 1988, with the races won by Italian pair David Tardozzi and Marco Lucchinelli.
The last visit, in 2009, saw American Ben Spies sweep the program and set a new lap record on his Yamaha.
In world Supersport, Australia’s Broc Parkes (Kawasaki) will be looking to go one better after finishing a close second to Italian bolter Luca Scassa (Yamaha) at Phillip Island.
Frenchman Fabien Foret (Honda), rookie Sam Lowes (Honda) and David Salom (Kawasaki) should also be racing at the pointy end alongside Parkes and Scassa.Sydney rider Mitchell Pirotta will also be in action, on a Honda.
World Superbike, Rd2, will be shown live on SPEED TV at 9:30pm Sunday. Pity Austar don’t have SPEED TV.
WORLD SUPERBIKE STANDINGS (AFTER ROUND 1 OF 13):
1 Carlos Checa, Spain, Ducati 50pts
2 Max Biaggi, Italy, Aprilia 40
3= Marco Melandri, Italy, Yamaha 27
3= Leon Haslam, Great Britain, BMW 27
5 Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Suzuki 18
6 Jonathan Rea, Great Britain, Honda 17
7 Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Aprilia 16
8 Tom Sykes, Great Britain, Kawasaki 15
9= Eugene Laverty, Great Britain, Yamaha 14
9= Jakub Smrz, Czech Republic, Ducati 14
14 Troy Corser, Australia, BMW 6