It’s been an interesting weekend for the Kawasaki World Superbike
effort. Rider Tom Sykes broke a five-year winless streak for the ZX-10R
, taking the Race 2 victory in a rain-shortened contest at Nurburgring. But that momentous news came just hours after Kawasaki announced it was cutting ties with the Paul Bird Motorsport team.
Kawasaki racing officials have decided to go in-house for the 2012 season, cutting ties with partner Paul Bird Motorsports.
The PBM squad has campaigned as the factory-supported Team Green effort in World Superbike for multiple seasons, but the Japanese marque will not renew its contract next year. Instead, Kawasaki has issued a statement that it will “take a new direction for 2012” announcing “the company has decided to exercise a greater degree of control over the engineering and structured development of the flagship machine for the 2012 season.”
After thanking PBM for its efforts, Kawasaki Race Manager Ichiro Yoda goes on to say in the company statement: “The direction of our World Superbike effort from 2012 moves to even closer control from our HQ where decisions will be made back in Japan next year. There are plans for much more testing in the future and so from a European logistical perspective Kawasaki’s WSB operating base will need to be close to the best circuits and good weather conditions, for practical reasons. Additionally, this new situation must also match the budget constraints that the company has to operate within.”
While Kawasaki will run in-house for 2012, Motorcycle USA’s WSB Insider reports Bird has already started inquiries to run a two-man squad with other manufacturers
in the SBK paddock. And Bird wasn’t afraid to talk about the split, saying after Sykes’ Nurburgring victory:
Paul Bird and company will not continue as Kawasaki's factory squad in the 2012 season, despite rider Tom Sykes' race-winning performance in the Nurburgring rain.
"Having learned this morning that we wouldn't be running the Kawasaki team next year was a massive blow and the team responded magnificently with our strongest performance of the season. As well as us, Tom was told his services would not be required next season so what better way of proving a point than giving the factory its first victory in five years, but you have to say they make some great decisions don't they? Getting sacked proved to be a lucky omen for us and I'm delighted for Tom and the team as they have been through the mill at times with this project. It's a shame we can't see it through given all our hard work but as one door closes, another one opens and we look forward to the challenges ahead should we decide to carry on."
It’s been a tumultuous run for PBM in 2011. The team’s highest profile talent, Chris Vermeulen
, once again battled injury the entire season. The PBM squad was also rocked by a drug smuggling scandal
in early May, when two of the team’s transport trucks were detained while returning from the Assen SBK round. UK border officials discovered drugs and a firearm in the transports, arresting four PBM technicians during the incident. The team immediately issued a statement confirming the drug seizure, but expressing confidence that team members were not involved in the plot.