A former Grand Prix motocross rider until injury forced him to retire; Paul Bird started helping local riders back in the early 1990s before starting his own team in 1996. For the next decade, Paul Bird Motorsport established itself as one of the leading teams in both the British Championships and on the roads culminating in nine domestic titles as well as two prestigious Isle of Man TT victories. In addition, the team contested many additional events both on the short circuits and the roads with much success.
Bird’s team has a strong pedigree having won back to back British Superbike Championship titles, first through the late, legendary Steve Hislop in 2002 and then Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne a year later, with Stuart Easton also winning the Supersport title to add to John McGuinness’ 250cc crown of 1999. A couple of seasons with modest returns from 2004 to 2006 saw Bird re-sign Byrne and young gun Tom Sykes for the 2007 BSB season with Shakey winning at Mallory and Sykes being a consistent podium finisher by the season’s end. Bird then made the decision in 2008 to move into the World Superbike Championship with Gregorio Lavilla and Chris Walker aboard a private Honda.
After finishing an impressive 12th place in their rookie year and top privateers in 2008, the opportunity came about with Kawasaki for the 2009 season. The newly formed official Kawasaki World Superbike Racing Team began racing in 2009 with ex-Moto GP racer, Makoto Tamada and the Australian Broc Parkes.
The Kawasaki programme progressed in 2010 with the pairing of GP star Chris Vermeulen with young Brit Tom Sykes. In a challenging year, Vermeulen never regained fitness after a crash at round one leaving Sykes to fly the flag on the ageing machine securing a pole and several top 10 finishes.
Into 2011 and the decision from Kawasaki to sign Joan Lascorz led PBM to adopt an ambitious three-rider plan with Bird insisting on re-signing Sykes to head the development of the new model ZX-10R. This proved a master stroke as Sykes proved a revelation and not only gave Kawasaki a pole position, he secured Kawasaki’s first race win in five years exactly 12 months after the official launch of the bike.
2012 saw the PBM undertake an ambitious plan to race in British Superbikes with former champions Shane Byrne and Stuart Easton and in addition, contest the MotoGP World Championship in the CRT class with James Ellison aboard an Aprilia ART whilst the team built their own revolutionary PBM MotoGP machine. Byrne duly won the British Superbike Championship with Keith Farmer also claiming the National Superstock 1000 title whereas Ellison claimed victory in the CRT class at Le Mans before finishing the team’s debut season in MotoGP in an impressive 16th place.
The PBM MotoGP team expanded to two riders for 2013 with Colombian Yonny Hernandez riding the ART and Michael Laverty entrusted to develop the PBM machine and whereas both riders scored points, the emphasis was on development work on the bikes which saw them improve as the season progressed. In BSB, Byrne finished runner-up, just missing out on the title in the very last race of the season.
2014 saw Laverty joined in MotoGP by Broc Parkes as the development work continued on their own PBM machines. Both riders were consistent and the bikes reliable and a historic double points scoring finish in Indianapolis was bettered at Sepang in their penultimate race in the series. Back home in BSB, Byrne took a record-breaking fourth title as he upped his winning tally to 61 races whilst Easton claimed the BSB Rider’s Cup. Bird missed out on making it a triple success by the narrowest of margins when he lost the BTRDA Rally Championship on countback.
2015 saw PBM once again challenging for major honours on a full time return to BSB with both Byrne and Easton retained to fight for the title with Ian Hutchinson entrusted to front the road racing campaign. Both Byrne and Easton had a very strong first half of the season, but Byrne couldn’t beat the ultra-dominant Josh Brookes in the end and had to settle for runner-up spot again whilst Easton’s season ended early with injury. Hutchinson gave the team podiums at the NW200 and TT as well as a sensational Superstock TT win for PBM on their return to the Island.
For 2016, the team returned to Ducati with whom they’d enjoyed a very successful relationship in the past and Byrne and rookie team-mate Glenn Irwin were entrusted with the brand new Panigale R with support from Ducati Corse. Despite a steady start as the team developed the machine, Byrne took nine wins and seven podiums to wrap up a sensational fifth BSB title for himself and PBM. Irwin scored a couple of podiums for good measure whilst in the MSA Formula 4 Championship, Frank Bird strung together some points-scoring drives in his debut season.