Vermeulen Takes Debut Podium In Chaotic Home GP
Chris Vermeulen finished this afternoon's chaotic Australian GP in second place after a rain shower in the early stages of the race forced all riders to pit for their spare bikes equipped with full wet set-up. Vermeulen had started 16th on the grid but made full use of the rain to vault up the running order and ultimately become the first Australian to finish on the podium in the Australian Grand Prix since Mick Doohan back in 1998.
Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano took the early lead after a sensational qualifying performance from the Kawasaki team on Saturday and a competitive package in race trim which showed the team's potential. Unfortunately, his early dominance was undone by the rain as he dropped back to eighth by the chequered flag. His team-mate Randy de Puniet had to settle for 11th place following an otherwise competitive weekend.
Sete Gibernau made a flying start to run in the top three by the second lap, making up for a difficult qualifying session which left both Ducati riders outside of the top ten on the grid. With strong race pace in the dry, demonstrated throughout the weekend's free practice sessions, Gibernau and team-mate Loris Capirossi were quickly back in contention and aiming for the podium. Even after the rain, Gibernau was still riding in a podium position until being bumped back to fourth on the final lap. Capirossi was classified in seventh place, the result making him the first rider to reach the milestone of 200 point-scoring finishes in GP racing.
Suzuki's John Hopkins also salvaged four championship points to elevate himself to eighth in the riders' standings. Vermeulen's second place today takes him to tenth place in the season standings ahead of Nakano and Gibernau who make it five Bridgestone riders in the top 12. Bridgestone's three teams opted to switch their bikes to soft compound wet weather tyres at the pit-stops in a bid to make headway on a wet track, and podium-scorer Vermeulen was quick to praise his team.
Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 2nd Place: "I'm obviously very happy to get my first MotoGP podium at my home grand prix. The support everyone gave me here at Phillip Island and the bike the team gave me was superb. We did no testing in the rain and used a brand new Bridgestone wet that we didn't have any experience of in hindsight I probably would have chosen a harder tyre but we didn't know that at the time. I've got to give full credit to my team when I came into the pits, they were ready and everything went to plan. That's down to Tom, the organisation of the crew and everyone working with us."
Toru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Race Tire Development "We are extremely happy for Suzuki and Chris Vermeulen for scoring such a terrific result after this afternoon's chaotic GP. We know that conditions were not easy out there with the initial rain shower making way for an ever-drying track as the race drew to a close. The weather played the decisive role with conditions neither completely dry nor completely wet. As the rain came down, our teams acted efficiently and quickly to get their riders into the pits and onto soft compound wet weather tyres in order to take full advantage of the wet track. Unfortunately, the track started to dry quicker than we would have liked and it was a closely fought race in the final laps as the track rapidly dried out, but we were pleased to see Chris retain his well-earned second place after a typically strong ride in adverse weather conditions. Shinya made the most of his second place grid slot to build up a significant lead in the early laps, while Suzuki and Ducati saw their qualifying disadvantage eradicated after excellent starts. Sete was up to fourth on the first lap with John up to sixth and Loris also in the top ten. Had the race remained dry for the entire 26 laps, I think our tyres would have been strong enough to help all three of our teams to challenge for top scoring results today in spite of yesterday's qualifying difficulties. Suzuki's result has ensured that each of our teams has now taken a podium result this season as we head to our own home grand prix in Motegi next weekend."