Paul Bird, the flamboyant Northerner, written off by many following his disastrous 2022 season in Bennetts British Superbikes, is back with new riders, new bikes and new sponsor BeerMonster.com. But, asks Bikesportnews.com, can even the most successful team owner in the BSB paddock make it back onto the podium in the 2023 series, even with two great riders and the backing of Ducati? And how has he done it?
“I don’t know really,” Bird replied, unusually modest. “Perhaps more good luck than good management.
“We lost six paying sponsors in one year which shows it’s all based on results.
“It’s a bit like football I suppose but locally we’ve got some very good friends with businesses and a few rallied round so we seemed to have pulled most of it together. Otherwise I’d have to foot the rest of the bill myself.”
BSN: “You’ve got two good riders in Tommy Bridewell and Glenn Irwin, and you snatched them early on, so they give you every chance of winning yet another title. But are the bikes good enough you are getting from Ducati?
Bird: “100 per cent. We’ve got great reports from the boys at the tests. We went to Italy to build them and then went straight to the first test. The boys were over the moon. Tommy said his new bike was at a different level to what he’d been riding for the last few years so it looks promising to be fair.
“But we had to get out of the blocks pretty early thinking that some riders might be going to the world scene and talent might be thin on the ground. Obviously we had two riders who didn’t turn up at enough of the races last year and we still have one of the bikes for sale by the way! But that’s closed now. We’ve now two younger riders, one I’ve worked with and the other I’ve always wanted to work with.”
BSN: “So the bikes are good and the riders are good enough but you’ve got plenty of competition. Who’s the toughest competition?
Bird: “That will undoubtedly be Yamaha. They seem to be consistent at all circuits although they seem to struggle a bit in the cold weather but excel when it’s warm. Both Yamaha teams will be strong with good riders even though Taz Mackenzie is now overseas with World Supersport.
BSN: “And what about your old friend Faye Ho and the FHO team, who’ve also got some very good riders, one of whom you will be familiar with?”
Bird: “I’m not so sure. BMW don’t seem to have done it anywhere globally, never mind the UK. We’re all concerned about all riders because there’s always something or someone hat turns up. Look at Brad [Ray] last year and how dominant he was. Jason O’Halloran will be strong, he knows the team well and how everything operates.”
BSN: “I assume you’re not doing the TT because neither of your riders, for different reasons, will want to do it?”
Bird: “No, I’ll be in Barbados watching my son rallying and Len is not doing it for domestic reasons. But I will definitely be doing the North West with Glenn. Tommy has never asked me about it and don’t think he ever wanted to.”
BSN: “Your numbers are quite spectacular. So how many races and how many Championships have you won in British Superbikes?
Bird: “127 Superbike races and eight championships. One 250 title, one Supersport title and one Superstock. Am I the most successful in BSB? Well, I don’t pay much attention to that. I just want to go racing every weekend and win. We can’t rest on our laurels having had a very poor year. We’ve got to bounce back.”
BSN: “And if there was any one thing which you thought gave you that poor year was it, without naming names, that the combination of the team and the riders together were just not good enough?”
Bird: “Maybe there was a bit of complacency came into it on our behalf but at the end of the day I pick the riders so I have to put my hand up. I did think we had two riders who were going to dominate the championship but how wrong I was.”
BSN: “But perhaps the bikes themselves weren’t as good as you thought they were going to be.“
Bird: “The bikes were good. They were the same for the last round as for the first and you saw how good they were at Donington. We won two and could possibly have won three races. Was the Ducati that Tommy was riding better than ours ? No, I don’t think so and we have picked Tommy for his performance last year when he just wanted to beat us so bad. We hope he wants to do the same for us this year.”
BSN: “So you’re looking forward, perhaps older and wiser, to what the season brings?”
Bird: “Well, I’m certainly older but I’m not sure if I’m wiser. I am certainly looking forward to it with the new format and points scheme. I’m happy with whatever Stuart does, more or less, it has been the most successful national championship globally for a long time now so he must be doing something right.”
BSN: “And it looks like the appearance in the paddock will live up to your reputation as
Introducing a bit of show biz as you have recently acquired new hospitality facilities for your sponsors.”
Bird: “It is a results-based business but you have got to have good facilities. And yes, we did lose a big sponsor from last year but probably that was the results and perhaps one or two other things. This year we’ll have one on a longer term deal but we have to win races.”
BSN: “One final thing Paul which deserves a mention. Another member of the Bird family, your son Frank, is tasting success on four wheels, both rallying and on tarmac. Indeed, one of his fellow drivers is a chap named Valentino Rossi.”
Bird: “I never pushed him to do anything. When young it looked as though he might choose another sport and then at 15 he asked if he could have a go at car racing. In a way I was quite glad he didn’t pick motorbikes. My past might have been too much pressure and my career as a motocross rider ended in a big crash. He has been very career driven but has always been playing catch-up because he didn’t grow up in karting. I’m very proud of him because he is now a member of the Mercedes factory team in GT3 alongside Mr Rossi.”