1 January 1901
Q&A - Paul Bird, Kawasaki
Let's hope so – that would be good! When you look at the budgets, then see what people are buying, it is the Superbike, which is a lot cheaper to them than MotoGP. If you have a green motorcycle and it is running at the back then you have to wonder why you would spend £40million to run at the back of the field. It isn't doing the brand any good at all.
What do you make of WSBK compared to MotoGP at the moment, particularly with BMW and Aprilia joining this year?
The series seems strong, although it probably isn't as strong as it thinks it is. The whole world is in a mess at the moment and I'm sure it will get worse before it gets better. We need to have some cost-cutting measures in World Superbikes. We were promised with the tyre deal that it would become cheaper every year, but it has actually gone the other way – that is probably the Italian way of thinking. We need to have some small cost cutting measures, so we can stay at the forefront.
Having watched from the front line in Portugal, who do you think will be the title challengers?
Noriyuki Haga, Shakey Byrne, Ben Spies – top three in that order. I think Shakey will be very strong, although the thing that could hold him back is reliability because the team is struggling funding wise. If they can keep the Ducati running, then Shakey will be up there. He will start the season well, go through a quiet patch and then he'll finish the season strongly too, so I think he will go well. Spies is a class act. He is used to running at the front and he seems to learn circuits well, and seems to be quick in the wet and dry. Haga? Well he is on a factory Ducati, in an Italian-run championship, on Italian tyres… I need to say no more really.
How satisfying is it to see Britain establishing itself again as a hot-bed for new talent?
Britain has been good for it in the past. I think Scott Redding and Bradley Smith are the best of the young guys, but otherwise I think we are struggling a bit. We need some better systems in place, like the Spaniards and the Italians, to bring the young ones on. Some of our guys were good on a Superbike, but not so good on the smaller classes, but if we had some systems in place then we would be a really strong nation. We should take a leaf out of the Spanish and Italians and look at some of the championships they run.
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