The Kawasaki Superbike Racing Team has announced its rider Chris Vermeulen will miss his home round of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island in Australia this weekend, having been withdrawn on medical grounds.
The 28 year-old former World Supersport champion had an operation to rebuild his knee last July and is in the final phase of rehabilitation after complex surgery. His doctors are pleased with the progress t to date but an evaluation prior to the current IMS test sessions at Phillip Island confirmed Chris still has to achieve the final few degrees of bend in his knee joint to regain 100% of his race fitness.
Riding his Paul Bird Motorsport-prepared Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R at race pace would aggravate the knee and almost certainly delay his full recovery, so Chris and the team agreed his long term recovery is the most important thing, meaning he will miss the first round of the WSB championship on Sunday.
Akira Yanagawa will replace Vermeulen for Phillip Island and the British-based team will concentrate their efforts on regular KRT riders Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz.
Yorkshireman Sykes was an encouraging sixth fastest on the opening day's test at the Victoria track, with Spaniard Lascorz holding 11th position at the end, despite being as high as fifth after session one. The opening race gets underway on Sunday 27th February.
"We decided as a team that the best thing was not to race or test at Phillip Island. It is unfortunate because it is my home round and I have gone through such a long recovery already. It would have been nice to start the season fit and strong but we did not want to risk any further damage to my knee.
“Just as importantly, I am not fit enough to compete at the top level yet so it is better to not ride. My knee is improving and the recovery is going to plan, so hopefully by Donington I will be ready to race again. I have nearly five weeks from now to get ready for that round."