Vermeulen: "Round 1 is going to be wide open!"

Friday, 23 February 2024 06:44 GMT

Speaking during Free Practice 1, the 2005 WorldSBK runner-up gave his thoughts on the 2024 season, this weekend and how Nicolo Bulega will perform in his rookie season

As the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship gets underway, lots of personalities from the paddock have been giving their opinion in the build-up to the new campaign. One of these is ten-time race winner Chris Vermeulen, who spoke about an array of topics during Free Practice 1. The Australian, who was speaking to Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) and his Crew Chief, Andrew Pitt in the pitlane during FP1 as they waited for conditions to improve, covered racing with the duo, the 2024 season and whether Nicolo Bulega ( Racing – Ducati) could go one better than he did and win both the WorldSSP and WorldSBK titles.

RACING WITH REA AND PITT: catching up with old friends

Vermeulen raced against Pitt in WorldSSP as they fought for the title, with Pitt claiming the 2001 title, and another one in 2008, while Vermeulen won the 2003 title. Both then raced in WorldSBK, with Vermeulen finishing fourth in his rookie WorldSBK campaign in 2004 before claiming the runner-up spot in 2005. He also raced against Rea as the six-time Champion was bursting onto the scene, competing in 2010 and 2011.

Reminiscing about racing against the pair, Vermeulen said: “Pitt was just before my time, he was the guy I was always trying to beat. He won a couple of WorldSSP Championships when I was there, and I raced him in WorldSBK for a while. Jonathan Rea was coming into the Championship in my last couple of years, so I’ve known him for a long time. What he’s achieved, the six world titles with Kawasaki, it’s exciting for him but I can see the drive and determination. He’s got a new challenge with the Yamaha this year. He said he’s just got to understand the bike to get the most out of it, he said he can go quick, but can he go quick for a whole race?

ROUND 1 AND 2024: “WorldSBK is exciting this year…”

After discussing his racing past, the Brisbane-born race winner turned his attention to 2024, saying: “WorldSBK is exciting this year. Toprak moving to BMW, Rea to Yamaha, we’ve got Nicolo Bulega coming in fast as a rookie. Bautista’s a little bit injured, but he’s fast around ‘The Island’. It’s been resurfaced. Round 1 is going to be wide open. We’ve got the pit stop in the races and it’s going to be interesting to see how the season starts.”

BULEGA’S CHANCES: “hopefully he can go on and do what I didn’t…”

Reigning WorldSSP Champion Bulega earned himself a seat with Ducati for his rookie campaign, and Vermeulen discussed whether ‘Bulegas’ could win both titles, something he was unable to do after he finished runner-up in WorldSBK. He said: “It was a little bit different for me because I came in as a rookie, but the team did as well. Ten Kate really stepped up, they ran one bike with me, and it was the only Honda that was really competitive. It was about half a season before I won a race. He’s already quick and he’s in with the title winning team. Hopefully he can go on and do what I didn’t do which is win both Championships. I was runner-up in WorldSBK and the Champion in WorldSSP. He’s got the opportunity and he’s been fast in other categories, such as Moto2™; the guy is quick on any motorcycle, and it looks like that Ducati really suits his style at the moment. It’s going to be really interesting and it’s exciting just to throw more guys in there. It’s fun for us to watch.”

A NEW ERA BEGINS: watch every moment from the 2024 season in style using the WorldSBK VideoPass!