The huge crash Chris Vermeulen suffered during race 2 of last year's World Superbike opener at Phillip Island has had a major impact on his career. The crash caused severe damage to Vermeulen's knee, and the Australian has had problems ever since, eventually opting to have surgery in the middle of the 2010 season, forcing him to miss the rest of the season while recovering from the operation.
But Vermeulen's problems are not yet over. The former World Supersport champion has struggled during testing with the Paul Bird Kawasaki squad, managing to ride for just one day at Sepang before pain and swelling in his knee forced Vermeulen to pull out of the test. Vermeulen is still unable to bend his knee sufficiently to sit comfortably on the bike, despite intense physiotherapy to try to help the problem.
With the final test before the 2011 season kicks off about to start, and a week to go before the first race of the year, Vermeulen has decided to pull out of both the test at Phillip Island and the race there next Sunday to concentrate on his physical rehab, Fox Sports in Australia is reporting. After failing a fitness test ahead of the WSBK test on Monday, Vermeulen and the team came to the conclusion that it would be better to skip Vermeulen's home round at Phillip Island. The hope is that further treatment to his knee during the four weeks before the second WSBK round of the year at Donington Park will improve Vermeulen's condition enough to be able to race.
Vermeulen's ride will be taken by Kawasaki test rider and World Superbike veteran Akira Yanagawa. Yanagawa also replaced Vermeulen in the latter half of last year, though the 39-year-old Japanese rider could not prove competitive. According to Bikesportnews.com, rumors had former Kawasaki MotoGP and Ten Kate World Supersport rider Andrew Pitt taking Vermeulen's place, but Yanagawa has been named ahead of Pitt. Should Vermeulen's injury force him to miss more racing, or in the worst case scenario, force him to retire early, Pitt may well end up in the frame again.