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GP Week : Issue 58
5 MINUTES WITH ... Chris Vermuelen A one-time winner in the wet, Chris Vermuelen’s results have slumped as Suzuki has got left behind. The 27-year-old Australian remained a perfect gentleman when he spoke to MICHAEL SCOTT GPWEEK: They say nice guys don’t win races. Are you tough enough? Are you nice outside, but burning inside? CHRIS VERMUELEN: If it’s anything to do with the bike then I burn inside. And occasionally, I get frustrated in the garage. But normally I try to be polite; I’ve been bought up that way and that’s my nature. I think I’m tough enough. I’ve had my days. I think nice guys can win races. Valentino seems friendly to me, [but] I don’t know what he’s really like. You chose Suzuki instead of a satellite Honda team, back in 2006. How do you feel about it now? For the first two years it was the best decision of my career. At the time, it was the right thing to do. And now? Now, it’s not the best motorcycle out there. The thing that frustrates me more than anything is the rate of development has really slowed for us. The first year I was learning, and they built a 990 that was basically a large version of the first 800. When we got onto the 800 the bike was reasonable competitive. I had a very good year … four podiums, a win in the rain, but still a win. John [Hopkins] and I were fourth and sixth in the championship. But since then there hasn’t been much development. Last year it slowed. Now the bike is, to be honest, very similar to last year. Almost the same. When everything is right, the bike’s not too bad. But our area of working is very, very small, compared with say Yamaha or Honda. And when things move out of that area … say the track temperature changes by five degrees, we have to turn the motorbike upside down. And that is a lot to why we are so up and down. Is the engine still too aggressive? Very aggressive. The way I see it, Honda and Yamaha are probably the best engines, probably Yamaha at the moment. Ducati’s engine is probably as aggressive as ours, but they have the electronics to cover it up. 0 And the new engine (it came after five rounds)? I only used it at Barcelona. I couldn’t notice anything. They said there was a small speed increase. Loris [Capriossi] has used it the last couple of races, but I’ve been beating him with the old one. So I don’t think there’s much in it. They were short of parts. I think we’re going to get them again … but it’s going to be tough, because we’re only allowed so many engines from Brno on. If they keep breaking and they take 10 points away every time … (laughs), I might end up with a negative points score! What’s the plan for next year? To stay in MotoGP. I’m not saying I’d like to leave Suzuki, but my focus is trying to get on the best bike that can give me the best results. I believe I can win in this paddock, but you do need the right equipment. There’s talk of you approaching Tech 3 Yamaha. I haven’t had any contact with them personally, but I know Phil (from his management team) has spoken with Hervé. And other teams. Satellite teams are my only option. Maybe you will have to take a big wage cut. To be honest, I don’t care. And they know that. I’m not in the sport to ride for money. If I’m winning races I’ll get paid money. It doesn’t matter. It’s not why I’m here; I want to be on the best motorbike. And I made it clear to my management. They don’t all agree with that, because they’re on a percentage … (laughs). But that’s my view, and I am the one out there. You’ve had a lot of wet weather success, but you talk about the aggressive power, which should make it more difficult. How so? You ride the bikes very differently in the rain. The area where you use the power is different. Rain is a leveller for equipment. When a rider complains about a bike not steering well, that’s always at the maximum angle and the maximum force. In the rain you don’t get anywhere near that. So the bikes are brought back a lot more. We don’t pray for rain, but sometimes when you’re sitting on the grid, you think maybe a wet-dry race would help us move up a bit. It’s still difficult and it’s easier to make a mistake and crash out, but sometimes it helps. How’s your car collection? The last car we restored was a 1957 Buick. A Buick Special, a two-door sports coupe. In