French MotoGP: Chris Vermeulen aiming to forget tough start

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Factory Suzuki rider Chris Vermeulen reckons he is more focused on getting his 2008 campaign back on track than he is of repeating his maiden MotoGP victory in Le Mans this weekend.

The Aussie has had a nightmare start to the season with two non-points scoring finishes in the first four races, and he reckons it is imperative that he bags a decent finish in Sunday’s 28-lap race.

Vermeulen claimed his debut premier class victory in a rain-lashed French MotoGP a year ago, and he said: “I’m really looking forward to this weekend. Obviously it’s a circuit I go back to where I won last year.

“I definitely remember that day, typical Le Mans weather with the race starting out dry and by the end it was raining a lot. Conditions were very difficult and it was a great race, standing on top of the podium and beating everyone else there.”

Vermeulen denied he was under pressure to repeat his success of 12 months ago after a difficult first four races and he added: “I knew that I could win at this level.

“Last year we had four podiums, two second places which were close to wins and I’ve been quick in all conditions dry, hot, pouring with rain, so I knew that I could do it myself, I just want to do it a lot more now.”

Evaluating a relatively sluggish start to the season for Suzuki, Chris Vermeulen said he remains 100 per cent positive the British-based squad, which enjoyed its best campaign in 2007 since Kenny Roberts Junior won the 500cc world title in 2000, will improve during a hectic summer period.

“I think the team has a done a great job this year and I think the biggest thing is that it’s MotoGP, the elite of motorcycle racing. You know some of the other manufacturers have taken bigger steps forward then we have right now.

“I think there is a lot of potential in the bike. We were quite quick in the last few GP’s early on in the weekend and for whatever reason we haven’t had great results because of some issues with the bike,” said Vermeulen, who still believes the 2008 factory Suzuki GSV-R is a competitive machine.

“There’s a lot of riders out there who have won championship races and it’s never easy. I think we can be competitive and I’m looking forward to this next part of the season when we get into full swing in Europe.

“With five races in seven weeks I think we can step on the podium more frequently.”

But he didn’t deny that his early season form had fallen well short of expectations, not least as Suzuki hit problems late in testing that saw Vermuelen and team-mate Loris Capirossi revert back to a 2007 aerodynamics and chassis package.
“From a factory point of view they expect more, but they also realise we need the equipment to do it and right now we’ve had two non-finishes out of four races, but I’m sure as soon as we get things right they’ll expect good results and so will I.

“Hopefully I can deliver,” added the former World Supersport champion.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt