Yanagawa to replace injured Vermeulen

Experienced Kawasaki hitman will stand in for young Aussie

AKIRA Yanagawa will replace Chris Vermeulen on the Paul Bird Kawasaki for the opening round of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island.

Vermeulen is recovering from a complicated knee operation and although he almost has full movement in his knee, the team fears he'll aggravate the injury at the opening round and scupper his chances of being fully fit for the season.

Akira Yanagawa will replace Vermeulen for Phillip Island and the Penrith-based team will concentrate their full efforts for race weekend on regular KRT riders Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz.

Yorkshireman Sykes was an encouraging sixth fastest on the opening day's testing at the Victoria track with Spaniard Lascorz holding 11th position at the end, despite being as high as fifth after session one.

Chris Vermeulen: "We decided as a team that the best thing was not to race or test at Phillip Island. It is unfortunate because it is my home round and I have gone through such a long recovery already. It would have been nice to start off the season fit and strong but we did not want to risk any further damage to my knee. Just as importantly, I am not fit enough to compete at the top level yet so it is better to not ride at the moment. My knee is improving and the recovery is going to plan, so hopefully by Donington I will be ready to race again. I have nearly five weeks from now to get ready for that round."