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 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."

Turning his attention to Tamada, who has shown searing pace at both MotoGP and Superbike level in the past, Bird is keen to use this season as a chance to unlock his potential after a 2008 season spent towards the back of the field.

"There are lots of things that people would read into the Tamada situation. I have been doing a bit of research into his background and where has come from and what he has done. I think he needs to be looked after properly.

"He seems to have been mulling around on his own a bit last year, so I am going to try and bring him to our new workshop and the village and hopefully become one of the family. I think that might be something he needs. I am sure we can get him back to the forefront, where he belongs. This guy has gotten up on Sunday mornings knowing he has to go out and beat Valentino Rossi. There aren't many people out there who can say that!"

Looking ahead to the opening round of the championship, Bird is thinks Parkes in particular can star on home ground.

"I think Broc is capable of finishing inside the top ten. I think that is a realistic goal for us. If he could have two top tens, then that will be fantastic. The bike is at a basic stage and Kawasaki haven't had a factory effort for several years, so if we could have a couple of top tens from Broc, it would be fantastic. The first round of the year, being his home round, could be good for us. You always ride a little bit harder for your first round, dig a little bit deeper."



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