Another Aussie in the large list of motorbike riders, Chris Vermeulen is regarded as a ‘Wet-Weather Expert’ by his peers. Known fondly as ‘Vermin’, on account of his last name, Chris is a long time veteran of the Superbike series.
He started his Superbiking career in the Australian Superbike Championships, in 1999. He didn’t have much experience of professional racing before this but despite this, he took his Yamaha to 8th place in the championships. His best result of 4th place, on the way, won him the Privateer championship meant for all non-factory team riders.
His mentor, Barry Sheen, stepped in to provide his career with a boost. Sheen gave him the chance to go to Britain to participate in the Supersport and Superstock categories. His success at this level got him his first break with Castrol Honda, in the World Supersport series. His initial success in the series, towards the end of 2000, didn’t allow him much benefit in 2001 and he managed to finish in the top-5, just once. In 2002, however, he turned up his performances a notch and started picking up pole positions and podium places on his way to 7th place in the championships. He held the status of the team’s lead rider and also became the youngest ever championship winner in 2003, with 4 outright wins.
Ten Kate arranged a deal to run a Honda Fireblade in the World Superbikes series in 2004 and his association to Chris ensured that he was the obvious choice to ride it. He rode it to the limit and despite running the first test on a stock-clutch, the team carried out their own developments to enable Chris to win four races and finish in fourth place overall. He even lead the championship for some time and was the only rider to finish in the top 8, who didn’t ride a Ducati.
In 2005, Chris had company in the form of Karl Muggeridge but he continued his good form. He kept ringing up his wins’ total and an unfortunate turn of events saw him miss the title. He won the first race at Imola to take himself into second place, 55 points behind Troy Corser. But the second race got cancelled due to incessant heavy showers leaving the contestants with just 2 rounds in the season and 50 points up for grabs. Chris finished runners up in the championships’ race.