Aussie duo take on World Superbikes
TWO AUSTRALIAN motorcycle race aces are taking on the best riders in World Superbikes this year with Castrol helping them every step of the way.
Chris Vermeulen and Karl Muggeridge both ride for the Winston Ten Kate team aboard Honda CBR1000RR Fireblades and both are looking for wins in the four-stroke production championship in the second half of the season. Despite a fine debut for the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade and the Ten Kate team in 2004, where Chris won four races, things have been tougher in 2005.
So far this season, the team has racked up one win at Monza in the hands of Vermeulen and with team-mate Muggeridge slowly but surely coming to terms with Superbikes after many years of riding 600cc Supersport machines, the team is moving forward. Vermeulen has notched up eight podium finishes and after a more points at Brands Hatch in August, the young Aussie is second overall in the championship, albeit 110 points down on Suzuki’s Troy Corser.
Karl is confident, however, that his team will get there: “Suzuki came to their first test session with factory bikes ready to go. We didn’t, we had a bike, which was much closer to a stock road bike. We also had some problems in testing thanks to bad weather. We’re now testing some parts during the practice for races and we’re getting there bit by bit.”
A test of new Pirelli tyres and suspension parts at a two-day test at Magny-Cours in June also brought a big step forward. Previously, drive out of the corners had been an issue with the Ten Kate Fireblades, but the test saw new rear suspension parts, such as rear swing-arms and suspension linkages, help to improve the speed at which the CBR1000RRs deliver power to the rear wheel.
Vermeulen: “I’ve got a great team around me”
Vermeulen feels sure the team is on the right track: “After our test at Magny-Cours, we’re in a better position to grab points. For sure, Suzuki has the advantage for now but I’ve got a great team around me and a great bike underneath me. If Troy [Corser] ends up winning, it won’t be for any lack of commitment from us.”
Despite both riders coming from Australia and securing a World Supersport Championship each - Chris in 2003 and Karl in 2004 - they’ve both followed slightly different paths to be in the World Superbike class with the Castrol-backed Ten Kate squad.
Chris, 23, from Brisbane, started riding at four years of age, eventually competing in grasstrack events from the ages of 11-15 before finally being allowed to compete in road-racing at 16. He rose through the ranks quickly, catching the eye of ex-500cc World Champion Barry Sheene and moving to the UK to ride in the 600cc Supersports class. Eventually he was signed up by Gerrit ten Kate for his Dutch team and they dominated the 2003 World Supersports Championship, sealing the title with a round to spare.
With Honda’s new CBR1000RR eligible for WSBK competition, a step up to the World Superbike championship with the same team was a natural move for 2004. Vermeulen grew into his development role with the new Fireblade in his and the bike’s debut Superbike year, notching up four wins on his way to fourth overall.
The result is that Chris already has a year under his belt riding in the World Superbike class despite being eight years younger than Karl. Muggeridge rode schoolboy motocross and grasstrack, winning around 200 trophies between the ages of 11-15, before he moved to supercross. Eventually at the age of 20 he went road-racing as it fitted in better with his then full-time job of a fully-qualified watchmaker! Like Chris he progressed quickly through the ranks, also moving to Europe to race in the Supersport 600 class. Karl, 31, from Tweeds Head in New South Wales won his World Supersport title last year in fine style, winning seven races in a dominant display, which earned him a place alongside his younger countryman in the World Superbike class this season.
Both are now looking forward to the remaining races of the World Superbike season aiming to develop the Castrol lubricated Winston Ten Kate Fireblades into world beaters.