MOTOGP: Vermeulen Stays at Suzuki; Spies to Honda?
Chris Vermeulen will be a Suzuki
MotoGP rider in 2009 having rejected a late surge of interest from the Gresini Honda team. Vermeulen has agreed terms for a one-year deal for next season which will be his fourth with the factory Suzuki squad.
The 26-year-old Australian is Suzuki’s most successful rider in MotoGP since 2000 world champion Kenny Roberts Jr.
Vermeulen's decision to sign means he will again partner Loris Capirossi at Suzuki and that AMA Superbike star Ben Spies will start his MotoGP career on a Honda
if accepts one of two deals currently available.
Both the JIR and Gresini Honda satellite teams are in negotiation with Spies with JIR's boss Luca Monitron claiming that he has agreed to an option period and terms with Spies that can be concluded into a full contract following the Indianapolis Grand Prix.
Fausto Gresini, who was reportedly not happy when told that he missed Vermeulen, admits to contract talks with Spies's management.
Monitron says he has a U.S. sponsor lined up to back his deal and there are consistent rumors that Honda USA will also swing in behind Spies now that Nicky Hayden is confirmed at Ducati.
Vermeulen and Suzuki completed their long, and often complex, negotiations on the eve of the San Marino Grand Prix. Suzuki’s delaying tactics in fixing a deal with Vermeulen remain a mystery.
Vermeulen is Suzuki’s
only race winner in the 4-stroke MotoGP era and has scored seven podiums so far in three seasons. And in the 30 races since the introduction of the 800cc class in 2007, Vermeulen is third on overall points (299) with only Casey Stoner (554) and Valentino Rossi (439) ahead after the San Marino GP.
Two days before the Misano race team boss Fausto Gresini thought he was very close to signing Vermeulen having formalized an offer that included the supply of HRC factory support.
Although there has been no formal announcement it is certain that Vermeulen will race alongside Loris Capirossi again in 2009.
“I’m very happy with the way things are progressing at Suzuki. There are still some paperwork details to finish off but I expect Suzuki will be making something official around the Indianapolis race,” Vermeulen said.
Vermeulen has often spoken of his plan to remain with a full factory team because of the level of technical support but sources close to the Gresini offer say that Vermeulen was greatly tempted by a factory Honda
The one downside is that HRC have a policy of having multiple levels of 'factory bikes' and there would no guarantee that Vermeulen would get the same bikes as Honda number one Dani Pedrosa.
Having missed Vermeulen, Gresini must look further down his long list of candidates as a replacement. That list includes Spies, Sete Gibernau, and Toni Elias.