Six months after a major operation to rebuild his right knee, and a year after he originally injured it, Kawasaki World Superbike’s Chris Vermeulen is still not ready to race.In a posting on his Twitter page, www.twitter.com/chrisvermeulen7, Vermelen said, “sorry to say that I wont be riding at Phillip Island, my knee is improving but not at the level I need to compete at the front.”The Australian made the painful decision to withdraw from the World Superbike season-opener on his home track at Phillip Island after acknowledging that racing could delay a full recovery. That puts Vermeulen out of both the final test of the season, over the next two days, and the Feb. 25-27 curtain-raiser.
“We decided as a team that the best thing was not race or test here at Phillip Island,” Vermeulen said in a team statement. “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 off 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 at the moment. 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. “The injury to the knee came at Phillip Island in last year’s opening round. In his first race for Kawasaki, he crashed in the Honda Hairpin, putting pressure on his performance in race two. Vermeulen hit a false neutral heading towards Lukey Heights, crashing at high speed. Vermeulen hit a tire wall, with the ZX10R hitting his right knee. Surgery kept him on track, but it wasn’t a success. And when he had a second crash at Brno in July, a complete rebuild was necessary.On his website, Vermeulen wrote that after the Brno crash, and “with the support of Kawasaki, I finally came to the conclusion that I had to get it sorted, or suffer permanent damage that would not only end my racing career, but would severely impact on my mobility for the rest of my life.”The operation included the installation of a new synthetic lateral meniscus and tendon. Rehabilitation improved flexibility in the joint, but it remains a few degrees short of full extension.The second round of the championship is on the weekend of March 25-27, which gives Vermeulen a month to gain full fitness.Veteran Akira Yanagawa will replace Vermeulen for the Phillip Island tests, while teammates Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz fill fly the green flag in Sunday’s races.