Paul Bird Motorsport has signalled their intentions of a winning return to the prestigious MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship with the signing of Shane 'Shakey' Byrne and Stuart Easton for the 2012 season.
The Cumbria-based team has spent the past four seasons in the World Superbike Championship but prior to that has won four British Championship titles, two of which came courtesy of Kent rider Byrne and Scotsman Easton, so by signing the two riders, Penrith businessman Paul Bird has assembled his 'dream team' for a concerted assault on the title.
Double British Superbike champion Byrne, from Sittingbourne, and former British Supersport champion Easton, from Hawick, will be aboard factory-specification Kawasaki ZX-10Rs for the series as part of an ambitious plan which will see the team also field a CRT (Claiming Rules Team) rider in MotoGP.
Byrne, who won the 2003 BSB title aboard a Ducati for the PBM team and Easton, who claimed the 2002 British Supersport Championship also aboard a Ducati, will be looking for a winning return for certain. Byrne also raced a Honda for the PBM team in 2007, winning at Mallory Park in the process whereas Easton raced 125s and 250s in his early career for the team.
This year, Byrne led the series for much of the year but missed out in the Showdown races and despite a double win at Brands Hatch in the final round, he finished third whereas Easton was showing true championship potential when he was injured at the North West 200 and missed the rest of the season as a result.
Shane Byrne: "It's a bit like coming home as this will be the third time I'll have ridden for Paul and it's quite funny as you spend five minutes with the team and it's as if you've never been away! The team always puts out competitive bikes and the Kawasaki will be a major threat I reckon. You know Paul wouldn't be coming back to BSB if he didn't think he could win it so I think we'll have a real good shot at the title."
Stuart Easton: "My injuries are healing well and everything should be sorted in time for me to start testing with the team as planned. It's great to be back with PBM and I appreciate the support they have given me this year whilst I was out. We have enjoyed so much success together in the past, I'm really looking forward to this challenge and if we can replicate that it will be great."
Paul Bird, Team Owner: "When we decided to return to British Superbikes, signing both Shakey and Stuart was always the plan and I'm delighted they've come on board with us. We've won British championships as well as World championship races together and for me it's my dream team. We have proved that the Kawasaki ZX-10R is a fantastic bike and have won on it at BSB in 2010 so we know what we need to do. I promised Stuart a deal straight after his crash and he'll be back to full fitness very soon and with Shakey keen to make up for missing out this year, we are ideally placed."
The season starts at Brands Hatch over Easter with the team planning a test schedule in Spain during March.
Picture courtesy of Tim Keeton, Impact Images (high resolution available upon request): Stuart Easton (left) and Shane Byrne (right) will race for the Paul Bird Motorsport Team in the 2012 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship