The British motorcycling world and the global racing scene are mourning the loss of Paul Bird, who died on September 1, 2023, at the age of 56, after a brief illness. Bird was the owner of the BeerMonster Ducati team, the most successful team ever in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship.
Bird was a visionary and a leader who raised the bar and the glory of British motorcycle racing. He ran his own team, Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM), which has claimed eight BSB titles and four Isle of Man TT victories, among many other honors. He also competed in the World Superbike Championship and MotoGP, challenging the world’s best with his own ideas and goals.
Bird’s passion for motorcycling began when he was young, as he was born into a family of racers. His father, Alan, was a accomplished sidecar racer, and his brother, Mark, also raced in various categories. Paul was a talented rider himself, winning three Irish Supermoto championships and setting a record at the Barbon Hillclimb on a Honda CR500.
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Bird started his own team, PBM, in 1996, but he had already supported many riders before that. He helped Scott Redding and Casey Stoner in their early careers, and even trained with Stoner regularly. He also worked with Chris Palmer and James Haydon, among others.
PBM’s first wins came in 1999, when John McGuinness won the Lightweight TT and the British 250 championship. In 2000, Joey Dunlop won the F1 TT race on the Vimto Honda SP-1 at the age of 48, in what would be his final TT before his fatal accident.
Bird switched to Ducati in 2001, a move that would start his BSB reign. Steve Hislop won the 2001 title on the Monster Mob Ducati 998, before being unexpectedly replaced by a young Shane Byrne. Byrne proved Bird right by winning the 2002 title and making history by doing the double as a WSB wildcard at Brands Hatch that year.
Bird moved to WSB in 2008, after winning two more BSB titles with Gregorio Lavilla and Ryuichi Kiyonari. He became Kawasaki’s official team and achieved success with Tom Sykes, who took Kawasaki’s first win in five years at the Nürburgring in 2011. However, Bird’s WSB dream ended prematurely due to an incident out of his control away from the track.
PBM quickly embarked on another fascinating project: building their own MotoGP bike. The project was led by technical director Philip Borley. PBM ran an ART bike in 2012 before adding their own GP bike to the mix in 2013. James Ellison secured an ART win at Le Mans in 2012, while Broc Parkes clinched 11th at Assen on the GP bike in 2014. PBM left MotoGP at the end of that year.
A full-time return to BSB followed in 2014, and Byrne won his second (third overall) title with PBM that year. After being beaten by Josh Brookes in 2015, Bird reunited with Ducati once more. Byrne added two more titles to his CV, while a bold move to bring MotoGP star Redding to BSB ended in title number seven in 2019.
Bird was not only a successful team owner but also a generous sponsor and supporter of many riders and events. He sponsored the North West 200 for several years and backed riders such as Michael Rutter, Ian Hutchinson, Glenn Irwin, Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison.
Personal life of Paul bird
Bird was also involved in other motorsport disciplines, such as rallying and motocross. He was a keen rally driver himself, winning several events and championships. He also ran a motocross team that featured riders such as Brad Anderson and Jake Nicholls.
Bird was a divisive figure who was not afraid to voice his opinion or make bold decisions. He had many friends and rivals in the paddock, but he always respected his competitors and appreciated his fans. He was a family man who loved his wife Kirsty and his children Lexi and Franki.
Paul Bird will be remembered as one of the most influential and successful figures in British motorcycle racing history. His legacy will live on through his team, his riders and his achievements. He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him or followed his career.