Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Vermeulen Too Nice to Shake the Champagne; the MotoGP Rider May Have Been Too Loyal to Suzuki

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Vermeulen Too Nice to Shake the Champagne; the MotoGP Rider May Have Been Too Loyal to Suzuki

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Bode

STORM clouds had gathered above the Vermeulen family's picturesque Yandina property on Tuesday, but inside the atmosphere was decidedly less electric.

Home-spun MotoGP hero Chris Vermeulen may earn his living as a central character in one of the world's most exciting sporting spectacles, a massive circus which has pitched its big tent at Phillip Island, Victoria, this weekend, but he presents himself with all the pizzazz of the bearded lady.

He is as advertised - exceedingly nice.

But is Vermeulen a victim of his own wholesomeness?

Former 500cc Grand Prix star and current Network Ten motor racing commentator Daryl Beattie suspects he is.

Ahead of tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix, Beattie told the Sunshine Coast Daily that he intended to ask Vermeulen whether he believed his own amiability and sense of loyalty had cost him his spot in the world's premier motorcycle championship.

Tomorrow's race is shaping as the factory Suzuki rider's last home Grand Prix, after he signed a two-year deal to ride for Kawasaki in the World Superbike Championship in 2010-11.

In doing so, he will renew his quest to be crowned king of a class in which he finished second overall behind fellow Aussie Troy Corser in 2005.

The deal with Kawasaki follows four frustrating seasons with Suzuki, with Vermeulen's undoubted talent not matched by his team's development.

He showed his loyalty to Suzuki by re-signing with the team for this season, after being assured the machine would be more competitive, and in doing so rebuffed offers from rival teams.

But when Suzuki once again failed to deliver on its promises, he decided to look elsewhere, only to find all the seats for the 2010 season had been filled.

At 27, the chances of him returning to MotoGP are about as remote as his chances of winning tomorrow, unless the heavens open and a more even playing field allows him to usurp his rivals with pure skill - just as he did at the 2006 Australian Grand Prix, when he finished second behind Italian Marco Melandri.

Beattie has an inkling one of the reasons Vermeulen stayed with Suzuki so long was because his mentor, the late two-time world 500cc champion Barry Sheene, rode for the team.

It was Sheene who convinced Vermeulen to leave Australia to pursue his dream in Europe in 2000.

"Was his loyalty his biggest anchor?" Beattie said.

Himself one of the nice guys of world motor sport, Beattie said Vermeulen would be sorely missed on the MotoGP circuit.

"The disappointing thing at the moment is nice guys don't always keep their job," Beattie said.

"He's one of the nicest guys on the paddock. A gentleman.

"He's always an easy person to talk to. He's got a laidback Australian feeling that surrounds him all the time.

"He's a very, very well-liked man. …

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