Suzuki re-signs Capirossi and Vermeulen

Ben Spies may have to look elsewhere for a MotoGP ride

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Sep. 05, 2008
Rizla Suzuki has extended the contracts of riders Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen for the 2009 MotoGP season.

Racing veteran Capirossi is the most experienced rider in the MotoGP series. The Aug. 31 San Marino Grand Prix was Capirossi’s record-breaking 277th career Grand Prix race, and the 35-year-old Italian racer celebrated the occasion with a third-place finish, his first podium as a Rizla Suzuki rider.

Capirossi joined Rizla Suzuki in 2008 after a five-year stint racing for Ducati. The former 250cc Grand Prix Champion and two-time 125cc Grand Prix Champion has 29 career Grand Prix wins including eight at the MotoGP/500cc class, and 99 podium appearances.

Chris Vermeulen (left) and Loris Capirossi will return to Rizla Suzuki's paddock in 2009.“I am delighted to be staying with Suzuki for another season. I have really enjoyed my short time here and know we are making progress and can be on top again,” says Capirossi. “I still have unfinished business in MotoGP and on the Suzuki, I still have podiums, pole positions and race wins in me and I believe that I can achieve that with this team. I want to finish my career with Suzuki and I want to do that in style.”

Injuries have hampered Capirossi in the 2008 season, but he remains in the top ten, currently sitting ninth with 86 points despite missing three races. Perhaps even more valuable to Rizla Suzuki is Capirossi’s experience which has played a vital role in the development of the GSV-R race bike.

“Loris’ experience, knowledge and determination are a valuable asset to any team, but on top of that you get his incredible and infectious passion for racing - plus he’s a really nice guy as well!” says Paul Denning, Rizla Suzuki team manager. “His input in the development of the GSV-R has been a big factor this year and I am sure this contribution will help both Loris and Chris to see Suzuki fighting with the best riders in the 2009 World Championship.” 

Loris Capirossi (65) brings years of experience while Chris Vermeulen (7) has improved in each MotoGP season.The 2009 season will be Vermeulen’s fourth with Suzuki. Vermeulen joined the team in 2006 after finishing second in the 2005 World Superbike Championships. The 26-year-old Australian sits sixth in the current standings with 110 points.

“Suzuki was my entry into Grand Prix racing, I have been here for three years and won a GP – and been on podium many times – so I am really pleased to be continuing this relationship,” says Vermeulen. “I had offers from other teams, but I always felt that I wanted to stay with Suzuki if we could get the terms agreed so that everyone was happy. Luckily we were able to do that, so now I can get on with trying to win more races and help Suzuki get to a World Championship challenging level.”

With the signing of Capirossi and Vermeulen, it appears that AMA Superbike star Ben Spies may have to look beyond Suzuki for a MotoGP seat in 2009. With another AMA Superbike title nearly sewn up, Spies is ready to make the move to MotoGP. Earlier this season, Spies raced as a substitute for Capirossi and as a wild card entry for Rizla Suzuki, and will race for the team again Sept. 14 in the Indianapolis Grand Prix. But with two riders signed for 2009, Spies may have to end his long association with Suzuki to fulfill his hopes of competing next season in the MotoGP series.