Paul Bird is confident he can turn Kawasaki back into top ten contenders when the 2009 World Superbike Championship season gets underway in Australia later this month.
Speaking to Crash.net
ahead of his first round as team manager of Kawasaki's factory-supported effort, Bird is under no illusions that this season, which sees the number of manufacturer entries swell to seven, will be difficult, but is confident the team can be regular top ten contenders.
Kawasaki's form in the World Superbike Championship has faded in recent years, to the point that the PSG-1 Corse run team finished 310 points adrift of their nearest rivals in the overall standings last year.
Nonetheless, having initially been approached to front Kawasaki's Supersport challenge this year, Bird is delighted to have seen his team transformed from a privateer outfit to a factory-supported one.
“It is just surreal,” he mused. “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.”
Retaining Makoto Tamada, who is in the second year of a two season Kawasaki contract, and signing perennial Supersport contender Broc Parkes, Bird thinks regular top ten results are more than capable once the K9 specification bike has developed from the 'basic' state it is currently in.
“We haven't set any targets,” he added. “We want to make sure the manufacturer is happy with us and we do a better job than the previous team did. I am not too sure, because I don't usually sit back and make goals, but we need to get out there, do a good job and keep the contract for the foreseen future.”
As for the choice of riders, Bird cites Parkes as being an ideal choice for the team given his immense experience and is satisfied he has earned the chance to compete at Superbike level again for the first time since 2002.
“I have always been an admirer of Broc Parkes. He has always been one of those Supersport riders who is always hungry, always qualifies well, is a real
racer... I have always liked something about him because he has zest and venom, plus he has been on a Superbike before and I thought it was time to give him a go again. I'm sure the second time around he will grab it with both hands and give it 110 per cent.”