Smets to miss rest of the season after opting for surgery
Team Suzuki rider Joel Smets will undergo surgery on his injured right knee this Friday and will be out of action for the remainder of the 2004 MX1 World Championship. The 35 year old has decided to go ahead with the reconstruction on his joint due to experiencing pain after the British Grand Prix last Sunday and failing to reach his own high expectations on the track so far despite carrying the handicap.
Aside from the repercussions of the torn anterior ligament that he sustained at Mantova for a pre-season race back in February, Smets has missed valuable testing with the new RM-Z 450, personal riding time between GPs due to the post-race effects of the injury such as swelling and fluid build-up, and a knock to the determination and confidence that has gained the big-bike veteran five World Championship titles.
The Belgian still managed to score the first podium for the Suzuki’s new four-stroke at Valkenswaard, Holland for round four but his results have tailed off since then.
The operation will enable Smets to be 100% ready for pre-season preparation and testing for 2005 come September and into October. He is currently in hospital and receiving advice and consultations about the complicated procedure. An interview will be released next week.
“This is obviously a blow but we knew it would be coming at some point,” said Team Manager Jens Johansson. “After the accident Joel realised that he had a 50-50 chance of being able to ride at the top level and credit to him because he worked so hard to put himself up there. It was going quite well for a while. He was building up more confidence but I think his progression peaked at Valkenswaard. His training was OK and his riding was good but he was taking a lot of fluid on the knee after the races and this wasn’t great in the long-term. Surgery was always around the corner and after last Sunday he was in quite a lot of pain and suffering cramps. He spoke with his doctor and the decision was made to go ahead with the operation. Personally I think it is a wise decision. This way he will be ready for the winter and to start working fresh for next year. At the moment we have no plans to replace Joel. If we do hire another rider then it wont be for the next 3 or 4 GPs at least and we have a new bike coming in the summer break.”
With Kevin Strijbos as lone representative the Belgian squad now start their preparations for the Grand Prix of France at St Jean d’Angely this weekend.