Chris Vermeulen is hoping to show the racing world that he is over his two-year injury nightmare when he makes a return to action in this weekend’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
The Australian will step out of the wilderness to ride the Forward Racing Suter-BMW machine, with Colin Edwards sidelined after breaking his left collarbone in a qualifying crash in Estoril earlier this month.
Vermeulen hasn’t raced for nearly a year and not been on a race bike since he tested Kawasaki’s factory ZX-10R World Superbike in Misano last September as he has struggled to regain fitness having suffered a serious right knee injury back in February, 2010.
The former factory Suzuki rider though has painstakingly worked his way back to fitness and is determined to savour the opportunity to race in MotoGP again.
Vermeulen hasn’t raced in MotoGP since he left Suzuki at the end of 2009 though his Le Mans return means he will be back at the scene of one of the highlights of his career.
Vermeulen claimed his solitary MotoGP victory at Le Mans in a rain-hit 2007 clash and he told MCN of his excitement at being back in the premier class paddock.
“I’m really looking forward to being back in MotoGP. I had four years there and I really enjoyed it in terms of racing in the premier class on the best bikes, tyres and all that.
"To have the opportunity to get on a decent CRT bike and to hopefully give them some feedback and help develop the bike will be good fun.
"I haven’t ridden for a while and I wouldn’t say I’m nervous but the first day is going to take a bit of work getting back up to speed and it is not like I am getting a couple of days to test. I’ll be straight out there and it should be fun and there is no pressure from that side.
"The bike is new and we don’t know how it will work around Le Mans but I’m just going out there to enjoy myself again on a motorbike. I miss riding and if something comes of this in the future with a test ride or a few more wild cards then that would be great.
"I don't expect to go out to be the first CRT rider and everyone knows these bikes are not capable of winning races but it is an interesting project,“ said Vermeulen.
Vermeulen has still to show whether his knee is up to the rigorous stresses of racing a MotoGP machine but he is confident he will have no fitness worries.
He added: “My general fitness levels are as good as they've ever been. I did a couple of triathlons in Australia during the summer, but I know that riding a MotoGP bikes uses a lot of different muscles.
"I expect I'll be sore after a race weekend. I was also doing some dirt track training in the summer back home and felt comfortable with my knee for the first time in a while, so that's a good sign. I am running again and cycling again and I had to do a lot of work just to get my leg up to strength.”
For more from Vermeulen and seven pages of coverage from Sunday’s thrilling Donington World Superbike round, see the May 16 issue of Motor Cycle News.