WSBK » 17 February 2009
Q&A - Paul Bird, Kawasaki
It has been a busy few months off the track for the World Superbike Championship paddock, with plenty of changes, big moves and lots of new faces to welcome in 2009.
However, one of most significant differences on this year's WSBK grid is Paul Bird Motorsport's debut as a factory supported team having taken over the running of Kawasaki's effort.
Although Kawasaki has struggled for form in recent years, they are putting their trust in second-year outfit PBM and are confident of success. So, with less than two weeks to go before the first round of the season in Australia, Crash.net caught up with team owner Paul Bird to discuss the 'promotion', his choice of riders and the rise of the World Superbike Championship in recent months.
Having concluded your World Superbike season as a privateer Honda outfit, you head into this season as the official Kawasaki outlet – how pleased are you to be calling Paul Bird Motorsport a factory team?
It is just surreal! You always dream that something like this will happen, but for it to actually happen is fantastic. Especially for a little team like us that has come from a 125, 250 team in British championships in 1996 to where we are now. We have had little bits of success along the way, although the last couple of years have been a bit lean to be honest.
Can you explain how the talks and deal came about?
It happened at Monza. Steve Gutteridge asked us whether we would be interested in talking to Kawasaki about running their Supersport effort for 2009, but we turned it down flat. We are a Superbike team and we want to go forwards, not take a step back - we saw Supersports as a step back. But [we didn't mind] if they wanted to talk to us about Superbikes and the future… So it went on from there. At Donington Park it snowballed very quickly, so we could barely catch our breath.
How much of a difference is it going from a privateer capacity to a works one?
It is systems, mainly. It isn't a massive difference, but there are systems in place that you have to respect because we are working with a big Japanese manufacturer and they have their ways of working too, so we have to go down those ways, which we are quite happy to do. The boys have had to pull a line a little bit, where they have had a free hand in the past, they can't do that now. They have to go through the right channels and if it is not right then we have to find another way, but it seems to be working quite well at the moment. We might be a little bit behind, simply because the deal was slightly late in happening, but once we get three or four races under our belt, then I think we could be quite a strong force. The bike is going to get a lot better once we get to the European rounds, so by rounds four and five we can be strong.
How much of an influence does Kawasaki have in the day-to-day running of the team? What does PBM bring to the team?
We have such a great bunch of enthusiastic lads, who have been with me for a long time now. I am sure that goes a long way. We want success badly, more than anything, so I think we have brought that to the party because the team is financially strong. We aren't going to run out of funds and need to be topped up by the manufacturer, because we have a loyal base of sponsors.
Where will you succeed where PSG-1 Corse failed?
It's not for me to really say - it will take time though. I don't want to say what we are going to do and what we've got planned, so we want to keep our heads down, keep working and keep pushing Kawasaki to the front to become a regular top six, top eight contender.
What was the motivation behind signing Broc Parkes?
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