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.