MonsterMob Ducati team owner Paul Bird has made the somewhat shock announced that he will not be renewing the contract of 2002 British Superbike Champion, Steve Hislop.

"Steve's contract was up and it was a very difficult decision as to whether to renew it or not and the decision not to has not been taken lightly," stated Bird.

"Obviously Steve has been very instrumental in the team's success over the past couple of seasons and whilst we're very grateful to him for that, it was the right time for us to go our separate ways and Steve and I have no animosity towards each other," declared Bird. "We achieved our goals together and now it's right for us both to accept new challenges."

The 40 year Isle of Man based Scot has fronted the team's attack for the past two seasons, finishing second in 2001 before clinching the title at Donington last month - but the Penrith businessman is looking towards youth for the foreseeable future and Hizzy's image just didn't fit.

"We have a long term commitment to Ducati and our sponsors needed a younger profile within the team conducive with their marketing strategy and we are in negotiation with three young riders, all of whom fit the bill perfectly," explained Bird.

Bird then added that his team are aiming to make the switch to World level within two years.

"This is the start of an exciting three year project which will see us hopefully race in the world Superbike and Supersport championship starting in 2004, although we may decide to continue racing in the UK until 2005 should circumstances dictate" he revealed.

Rumours have been increasing in recent days that Hizzy's protegee, and 2002 British Supersport champion, Stuart Easton (pictured with Hislop and Bird) or Renegade Ducati's Shane Byrne may get the ride.

An official announcement as to who will replace Hislop will be made before Bird and his team jet out to contest the Macau Grand Prix in a month's time.