Byrne to make Ducati switch for 2016 as Irwin joins PBM

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Four time MCE British Superbike champion Shane Byrne and the Paul Bird Motorsport team will make a dramatic switch from Kawasaki to Ducati machinery for the 2016 BSB season, with the team retaining the colours of insurance company Be Wiser.

The move comes after a disappointing year for Byrne, as he struggled to match the pace of Josh Brookes on the brand new Milwaukee Yamaha R1. It also marks the culmination of the breakdown in relations between Kawasaki and team boss Bird, who is known to be unhappy with the levels of factory support that have been provided to the GBmoto squad in recent times.

He’ll be joined on the factory machines by Northern Irishman Glenn Irwin, who will make the step up from British Supersport. The move isn’t the first time that Bird has been quick to talent spot from Ireland, after taking Keith Farmer to first the National Superstock 600 then 1000 championships in 2011 and 2012.

Ducati sources have confirmed to MCN that Bird will have full-factory support directly from Bologna.It’s also believed that Byrne will make his debut on the machine as soon as this week, heading directly from the final round of the championship at Brands hatch to join the Ducati World Superbike team for a private test at Valencia.

The deal marks the continuation of a long relationship between both Byrne and PBM and the Italian marque, with Byrne’s 2003 BSB title on the venerable 998 machine joined by British Superbike and Supersport championships for Steve Hislop and Stuart Easton, under the Monstermob colours.

Speaking ahead of the announcement being officially confirmed, Bird was quick to point out his confidence in the squad.

“We are the first team to confirm our line up for 2016 which demonstrates our intention of challenging for the MCE BSB championship. In Shakey, we have the most successful rider in the history of the series and we know he’ll be very competitive. Glenn is a rider I’ve had my eye on for a while and is a huge talent so now is the time to get him on a Superbike and I’ve every confidence in his ability.

“It’s fantastic to have a reputable company like Be Wiser as our title sponsor as the brand fits perfectly with our team and it’s a long-term association like most of our sponsors in the past. The icing on the cake is the Ducati deal which will see us reunited with the brand which gave us most of our early successes. It’s a dream come true to be working with the factory again and it’s an honour to be entrusted to deliver the results for them which we aim to do.”

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer