Queenslander Chris Vermeulen’s recovery from major knee surgery will take a major step forward next week when he finally ditches his crutches after four months of convalescence, mostly spent in Spain.
The Kawasaki-backed Vermeulen first damaged his right knee in the opening round of the 2010 World Superbike title at Phillip Island in early March, sending his season into a tailspin before he finally succumbed to surgery in July to replace the lateral meniscus with a type of plastic.
“To be honest, I feel like I can walk now, but I am just erring on the side of caution and am following the timetable set down by my doctors”, said Vermeulen who has just arrived back in Australia to spend two months of summer with his family on the Sunshine Coast.
“Once I ditch the crutches, the next step in the process – at least from a motorcycle standpoint – will be getting on a little Kawasaki dirt bike and simply getting back into the groove of riding.
“And then I can look forward to testing at Sepang (Malaysia) early in January, where I can’t wait to try out the new ZX-10R for the first time.
“But in the meantime, I’ll continue with the weekly physio treatment and plenty of time in the gym and surf.”
Vermeulen, who has 10 WSBK victories to his name, is confident he’ll still be competitive in the opening round of next year’s world superbike title at Phillip Island from February 25-27 despite a truncated pre-season.
“The other riders have all started testing, but by the time Phillip Island comes around hopefully I will have had nine full days of testing under my belt,” said the 28-year-old from Yandina.
“That should put us in reasonable shape, and from what I’ve been hearing from the other guys (his 2010 team-mates Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes) the new bike is a real weapon, and Kawasaki has managed to sort out the biggest issue with the old bike – a chassis that just wouldn’t let it carry a huge pace on high speed corners. And there’s certainly plenty of horsepower on the new bike, too.
“Sykes, in particular, has been impressive in testing, and I know he will carry that form into the races — which has given me extra motivation to do well.
“But the biggest thing is just getting out on the track – it’s been a tough time, because until this year I had never missed a race meeting for any reason.”
There is enormous intrigue heading into the 2011 World Cuperbike campaign after a major shake-up of factory teams and riders, with only Kawasaki and Aprilia sticking with their current stocks – albeit with Lascorz joining Kawasaki too.
Meanwhile, Wollongong’s dual world champion Troy Corser now has a high quality teammate in world number two Leon Haslam, Yamaha’s appointed former MotoGP star Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty, Suzuki has Italian Michele Fabrizio, and Ruben Xaus will join Jonathan Rea at Honda.
Leading privateers will include James Toseland (BMW), world number three Carlos Checa (Ducati) and veteran enforcer Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia).
“I reckon Checa, Corser, Biaggi and Rea will be the riders to watch at Phillip Island, because they are settled,” said Vermeulen.
“But after the first few races it will all tighten up, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing the green bikes finally battling up the front again.”
Tickets are now on sale for the Philip Island round at www.worldsbk.com.au or telephone the circuit 1 300 728 007.