Exclusive: Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen Talks To MotoGPMatters.com

In the middle of the 2007 season's summer break, MotoGPMatters.com caught up with Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen, and talked to him about racing, the tire and engine rules which came in in 2007, and the direction for Suzuki in 2008. With the winter test ban about to end, and the teams getting ready for the 2008 season, it seems like a good time to run the interview with Chris Vermeulen, and whet our appetites for the thrills to come. Take it away, Chris.

You share a background with Casey Stoner and Ant West in dirt track, and you're all here doing very well in MotoGP. What is it about racing dirt track as kids in Australia that makes you all so good?

I don't know, really. Growing up on the dirt gives you a lot of feel for the bike, I find. It gives us a lot of understanding of what's going on underneath us on the Grand Prix bikes, I guess.

Casey Stoner's father Colin says that Casey's such a fast starter thanks to those short dirt track races. You, on the other hand, tend to be slower off the line, but quick once you get into the groove after a lap or two. Is that a legacy of your later experience in Supersport or Superbike?

That should be lap 10 or 20, not lap 1 or 2! No it's got nothing to do with Superbike or dirt track. I guess I just wait, get into a groove, and make sure everything feels fine. I push as hard as I can from the start, but I've got to be comfortable before I can go really quick , I guess.

You say you don't like riding in the rain, but you always go very well when it's wet. Why don't you like racing in the rain?

I don't think anyone likes racing in the rain. It's much more difficult mentally: you have no room for error, and it's very easy to make a mistake. You know, I really enjoy my racing, I do it for fun, and racing in the dry is so much more fun, more speed, more entertaining.

You got your first MotoGP win at Le Mans this season, and have had two podiums. Has the season lived up to your expectations, and were you expecting a win this season?

I didn't really have any expectations. The goal is to try and go out and win every race. Did I expect to win a race this season? Like I said, I didn't really expect anything, I just wanted to do my best. Obviously we just try and win as many races as we can, and the ultimate goal is to be world champion.

What do you think has been the most significant rule change this year, the change in capacity or the changes to the tire rules?

I think the biggest change for the racing has been the change in capacity. I think the bikes should go back to 1000cc and have less electronics, and the racing will be much closer. I think the tire rule has made it difficult in some circumstances, but I don't think that's the biggest difference.

Have the tire rules changed the way you work very much?

It's changed the way we test. We do a lot more tire testing. It's very important because we can't do a lot of it during a race weekend. Other than that, during a race weekend, sometimes you might have to keep a tire in for longer than you would if you had an unlimited quantity, but it hasn't really changed the way we work.

Do you think the tire rules are an improvement, or have they spoiled the competition? Are you using significantly fewer tires this year than last?

The tire rule I don't see it as much different from our point of view, we're not using many fewer tires than we did in 2006. I don't think that rule is the main thing the racing is so spread apart, I think it's more to do with the 800 cc engine.

Did the Suzuki change much between the 990 and 800 bikes? The 990 was already more of a corner speed bike, the 800 just made it more so. Are the two bikes a lot different?

I can't really say about the specific technical differences, but the 800 and the 990 feel very similar to ride. The 800 was a little slower when we first got on it, but yeah, the corner speed did feel higher. As for the difference between the 990 and the 800, development kept going and going on the 990s, and every year they were getting quicker, like the 800 bikes are now. But I think the only difference between the two bikes is you'll see a better rider will shine through on the 990 rather than the 800, with the bike making a difference.

They say that the ideal background for an 800 cc MotoGP bike is the 250 series. You only rode 250s fairly briefly, spending most of your time on Supersport and Superbike machinery. Does that put you at a disadvantage, or did Supersport and Superbike provide any useful lessons which you took with you to the 800 cc MotoGP bikes?

To be honest, I think any rider that can ride any form of road racing bike quickly can be quick on an 800. It's got nothing to do with coming from 250, Superbike or Supersport. Supersport 600 to 800 Grand Prix bikes are very very different, it's hard to compare. Supersport racing it was very important to carry corner speed as we didn't have the horsepower, but so was Superbike, you know, you adapt to whatever bike you're on at the time. And coming from a 250, yes, it's a Grand Prix bike, but still these guys are going to have to adapt to the horsepower of an 800 and it's going to be different as well.

How do you feel about the increasing role of electronics in motorcycle racing, particularly in MotoGP? Does it spoil the show for fans, or is it an inevitable part of prototype racing?

I think we should have less electronics, but that's the way it's going forward. It's prototype racing, and we're developing the bikes further and further all the time. I think at the moment there are a few teams that have a big advantage with electronics and maybe it is spoiling the show for the fans a little bit. I would prefer to race without it but this is Grand Prix racing and that's the way the rules are.

In 2008, you're likely to be the lead rider on the team. Do you have ideas about which direction you want to take the bike? Is it currently developed around John's riding style, or is it flexible enough to suit both of you equally well?

At the moment the bike is not developed around John's riding style. I feel like I've had as much involvement in development as John has, and I feel like Suzuki have already got the direction very well sorted where they want to go. It's great being involved with a factory team from the aspect that I get to put all my development in to improving the bike and hopefully make it suit me and my riding style even more, but I don't think next year's going to be any different to this year.

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