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Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen says his team’s positive test at Sepang proves significant improvements are being made with the GSV-R, but insists there is still a long way to go before the season starts.
Following an inconsistent season for Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi in 2008 the Rizla Suzuki team hope to hit the ground running this year and the initial signs from the first MotoGP test of the preseason at Sepang, earlier this month, were certainly positive.
Vermeulen registered best laps in the top six on the timesheet on all three days of the South East Asian exercise and his colleague Capirossi was the top man on day one.
The two riders gave the Japanese factory a clear list of development targets over the winter and progress has apparently been significant. Vermeulen told motogp.com, “We had a very good test in Sepang, thanks to the Suzuki factory and how hard they were working in the two months we had off. They brought a lot of new parts. The strong area with our bike is still corner entry, on the chassis side it works quite well and they took a good step with the electronics on the bike. I guess the area we still need to work on is engine performance and how the bike puts the power on the ground.”
The Australian’s viewpoint is that whilst the clear improvements are a good step, one test is not enough to get over-excited about and the hard work must continue.
“We have definitely closed the gap to the front guys,” remarked the Queenslander. “But Sepang has been a reasonable circuit for Suzuki in the past so we are hoping that when we get to other places like Qatar, which hasn’t been so good for us, we take good steps there too.”
“The improvements show how hard the company are working,” he continued. “I know financially times are tough for all the manufacturers, but it goes to show that Suzuki are still focused on what they want to do and that is to win races at MotoGP level and hopefully a championship.”
When asked about the good form of some of MotoGP’s more experienced riders in Sepang, including Valentino Rossi, Colin Edwards and his own team-mate Capirossi, who is about to undertake his 20th season of Grand Prix racing Vermeulen replied playfully, “Loris started in GPs just after Noah finished building his ark!”
But the 26 year-old was 100% serious about the attributes that his veteran Italian friend brings to the table, as he stated, “The experience of all those guys helps their teams without a doubt and it is great working with someone like Loris. He has ridden so many different types of bikes, he knows when circuits are good, when they are slippery and so on. I’m definitely learning from his experience. With new things happening like the tyre rule the experience helps and I guess that is why we, as a team, same team as last year, same mechanics, same riders, got straight out of the box and went quick.”
Giving an indication of how he had spent his spare time in the winter break, which coincides with summer in his native Brisbane, Vermeulen concluded, “I have added my 1933 Ford Coupe to my collection here in Australia as I had that in the UK, so now I have five old cars here and we have been busy playing with them all, driving them around. Other than that we have been spending time on the water, I have a nice sailing boat here. I have been sailing when I can, spending time at the beach, catching up with friends and riding motorcross bikes as well. It’s a tough life, but somebody has got to do it!”
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