Chris Vermeulen will finally get to pay further homage to British legend Barry Sheene in 2008 after securing the number seven plate for this year’s MotoGP world championship.
The Rizla Suzuki rider will use the iconic number for the first time in MotoGP, having run the number 71 in his first two seasons in the premier class.
But now that Carlos Checa has quit MotoGP to join the World Superbike series in ’08, Vermeulen can now run the coveted number seven, which was made famous by Britain’s double MotoGP world champion Sheene in the Seventies.
Vermeulen was given his shot at racing stardom in 2000 when he moved to the UK in 2000 to contest the British Supersport series. He landed his Sanyo Honda ride after being recommended by Sheene, who had touted Vermeulen’s name as a bright future prospect.
The 25-year-old has always had the ambition to run Sheene’s number, and during last year’s Australian GP at Phillip Island, Vermeulen ran in a special tribute retro livery in memory of Sheene, who lost his battle with cancer in 2003.
“I am really pleased to have secured the number seven on my bike for 2008. Barry was a huge influence on my career and I always had it in my mind to one day race a Suzuki with the number that he made famous on it – I just hope that I now have the same success that he enjoyed! It was an honour for me to ride his bike at a demonstration event in England a couple of years ago and then to have the retro livery on my bike at Phillip Island last year that was also inspired by one of Sheene’s bikes was just awesome, so for me to now compete with the number seven is like the icing on the cake! It has been over 30 years since Barry won his second world title and I will be doing all I can to make sure that I follow in his footsteps and make it my lucky number seven as well, “said Vermeulen.