Vermeulen empathises with Rossi’s retirement agony

Valentino Rossi waves to his fans after what is likely to be his final MotoGP race in Austria. Picture:

Chris Vermeulen says he understands why Valentino Rossi has gone on for so long before deciding to retire from MotoGP racing.

Rossi is set to be a handful of months shy of his 43rd birthday by the time he hangs up the helmet after 26 seasons in grand prix competition.

The seven-time premier class champion has been on a downhill slide for some years now, with no wins since 2017, a podium drought stretching back to Round 2 of 2020, and a position of 19th in the standings at present.

Rossi admitted that, at the start of the current campaign, he wanted to go on even longer, noting the immense joy which racing has given him.

Ultimately, however he decided during the summer break to pull the pin due to his results.

Vermeulen’s career, on the other hand, ended in his late-twenties, after his injury-plagued 2010 and 2011 seasons in the Superbike World Championship, although he did ride as an injury replacement in the 2012 French MotoGP.

Speaking in the latest episode of the Rusty’s Garage podcast, available now on Listnr, the Queenslander said he “wouldn’t have known when to stop” if not for his enforced absence from the saddle.

“I wouldn’t have known when to stop,” Vermeulen told host Greg Rust.

“Putting that in perspective, some people say with Valentino Rossi, ‘Should he have stopped? Has he gone on too long?’

“I personally think he’s gone on too long but it’s hard when you’re the guy there and that’s all you know.

“Why should you stop? He can still get the bike, he can still race, he still finishes in the field, so I think I would have been a little bit the same and not known when to stop.

“I had pretty much nine months when I wasn’t going to be riding a motorbike and it was a long time for me to think and realise and understand, there’s other things in life apart from motorcycle racing.

“You’ve got to remember, when you do this – and I’m sure any professional athlete’s the same – your whole world is that sport.

“Everything I ate, drank, did, where I travelled, it was all about going faster on a motorcycle, and I didn’t think about anything else outside of it, and I had nine months to really realise there was another world outside of motorcycle racing, and I could have a lot of fun in that too.”

Rossi is likely to remain involved in motorsport by racing cars on a more regular basis, although he has also spoken of his desire to start a family.

Having done similar after he decided to quit racing, Vermeulen suggested the injuries which arose from a particularly bad crash at Phillip Island at the start of the 2010 WorldSBK season were a blessing in disguise.

Chris Vermeulen during his MotoGP days. Picture:

“I was running around in fourth and I was very comfortable,” he recounted of Race 2 that weekend.

“During the race, it had some issues with this new gearbox in this bike, and I went to go down a gear and the gearbox locked up and I sort of grabbed the clutch and speared off the track and crashed into the wall up at the top of Lukey Heights.

“That’s when I did all the damage to my knee, so, broke four ligaments in my knee, I’ve got plastic meniscus in there now, I’ve got a couple of donor ligaments, I was five-and-a-half months non-weight-bearing after the major surgery, three operations on it, and it was quite a difficult time in my career.

“But, that set me up for the rest of my life.

“I guess, being a motorbike racer… I was still young then, and I didn’t know when I was ever going to stop.

“I wanted to have a family one day, but I didn’t want to bring a family up in a racing environment, being an Aussie living overseas.

“I was always going to come back here, so my wife and I decided I would call it quits and we’d come back home and have a couple of young kids and it’s fantastic now.”

The 2021 MotoGP season continues with the British Grand Prix on August 27-29.

See below for both parts of the Chris Vermeulen episode of Rusty’s Garage

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