PARKES AND TAMADA READY TO ROLL...
The 2009 World Superbike Championship gets underway at Phillip Island in Australia next weekend (March 1st) with the Paul Bird Motorsport Team hoping to turn the fortunes around for the Kawasaki World Superbike Racing Team.
Following a successful first venture into the Hannspree World Superbike Championship last year, team owner Paul Bird has joined forces with Kawasaki Motors Europe and will run the official factory Ninja ZX-10R in 2009 with Australian Broc Parkes and Japan's Makoto Tamada.
Both riders have good Superbike experience and are expected to show well for the Cumbrian-based team aboard the SuperCasino.com, Vent Axia and Kick Energy-backed machines.
27-year-old Parkes has been twice runner-up in the World Supersport Championship and also finished 11th in the 2002 SBK Championship aboard a privateer Ducati whereas Makoto, now 32, won three World Superbike races in the early years of this millennium, and followed that up with two wins in the 2004 MotoGP series.
Testing has gone well over the winter with Parkes and Tamada gelling well with both the bike and the team and both are confident of good performances going into the season opener.
"I'm really excited to be making the step-up to the Kawasaki World Superbike team after five years racing in Supersport. I've started the pre-season testing adapting to the Superbike so our expectations haven't been too high at this early stage. The testing has been really productive, particularly on Phillip Island, as we discovered a lot about the bike which we wouldn't have found until the race weekend had we not tested.
I'm really happy with the new team and my guys are working hard on developing the bike so we can hopefully get in the points come Phillip Island. I'd love to walk away with a top 10 finish for my home race, but we'll wait and see. I'll be giving it my absolute best."
"I'm feeling comfortable with the new structure and set up for 2009 and I believe the team and I have a mutual understanding of what we need to achieve and where we are headed. We share the same problems and I think we will progress in a positive direction in order to get the bike to its highest potential.
The pre-season testing has been beneficial and we have been working hard on solving some set-up issues ready for the season opener. Phillip Island is one of my favourite tracks from my GP days, except when it's windy, and I love the enthusiasm of the Australian crowd so I'm really looking forward to the race weekend."
"I'm confident we can get some good points on the board this weekend and that has to be the main aim. There's no reason why we can't score a top ten in Australia first time out but we're under no illusions as to the enormity of our task. We still are developing the bikes and the first couple of races will be hard but the aim is to get the opening two rounds under our belts and then make some major strides forward once we get back into Europe."
The opening race gets underway on Sunday 1st March at 12.00 local time (01.00 GMT) with race two at 15.30 (04.30 GMT) and British viewers can catch the action live on Eurosport.
BIRD BIDS FOR BOURNEMOUTH BUBBLY...
As his riders are lining up on the grid for the opening round of the World Superbike Championship, team owner Paul Bird hopes to have already sampled the winner's champagne himself.
The Penrith driver won't be making the trip to Australia with his team; instead he'll be contesting the opening round of the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship which gets underway with Rallye Sunseeker in Bournemouth on Friday evening (February 27th).
Driving his Subaru WRC with Northallerton's Ian Windress as co-driver, the pair are hoping to reclaim the title they last won in 2005 and have their sights firmly set on winning the rally.
Traditionally fastest on Friday night's town centre and seafront stages, Bird will have to see off some of the UK's top drivers in the forests around Ringwood and Wareham on Saturday if he's to pull off his inaugural win on the event.
One of the main threats to Bird will be his friend and sponsor, Steve Perez of Kick Energy, who has just taken delivery of a latest version Ford Focus WRC and the pair's traditional rivalry will be in evidence with once again, the loser having to pay for the other team's post rally party so there's much more than pride and honour at stake!
"I've been away from the sport for a couple of years as we strove to make our Superbike team more competitive and now we are doing that, I can spend a bit more time having a play in my car. Steve's gone out and bought himself a new car to try and beat me but he's going to have to go some to match my ageing Subaru! I'll be in touch with the boys in Australia throughout the weekend and I've told them that if the boss can bring the champagne home, I'm expecting them to also!"
For further information visit www.rallyesunseeker.co.uk