One of the two final missing pieces of the 2014 MotoGP line up has been filled in. Today, the PBM team announced they would be back in MotoGP next season, with a two-rider team and additional help from Aprilia. The two riders will be Michael Laverty, who rode for Paul Bird's PBM team in 2013, and Broc Parkes, who has spent most of his career racing in World Supersport and World Superbikes.
Though the press release issued stated that the team will be racing 'PBM Aprilias', it is still uncertain exactly what Laverty and Parkes will be riding. Speaking to British site Bikesportnews, Laverty said that no decision had been made on whether they would be riding the full Aprilia ART package or the PBM chassis with an Aprilia engine. The team are due to test both packages back to back to assess development, and make a decision from there, Laverty said. What is clear is that Aprilia will be stepping up their support of the PBM team, after making a decision about the factory's future involvement in MotoGP.
The arrival of Parkes saves a long-standing record in the series. Australian riders have been a continuous presence in the premier class since 1983, and with the departure of Bryan Staring at Gresini, it looked like that run would come to an end. It seems likely that Dorna had a hand in keeping an Australian in the series, and the choice of Parkes is a good one in terms of name recognition. Parkes has been a very strong presence in the World Supersport series in recent years, racking up a total of 32 podiums and 6 wins. After a year racing World Endurance and in the Australian Superbike championship, Parkes returns to the world stage with PBM.
The announcement of PBM's rider line up ended the doubts of PBM's continued participation in MotoGP, and leaves only one space still open for 2014. The IODA racing team has yet to confirm their second rider for 2014, or whether they will field a second rider at all. IODA look set to also field Aprilia machinery, but that, too, will rely on investment from Aprilia.
The press release from the PBM team on both their MotoGP and their British Superbike teams follows below:
PBM Announces Four Rider Team For 2014
Paul Bird Motorsport is pleased to announce that they will be contesting the MotoGP World Championship and the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship with a two rider team in each series in 2014.
Ulsterman Michael Laverty will continue for a second year in MotoGP where he will be joined by Australian Broc Parkes on board the team's PBM Aprilias. In BSB, triple champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne will be joined by reigning British Supersport champion Stuart Easton on the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki ZX-10Rs.
Laverty ended his debut season in the MotoGP World Championship in 25th overall with a best result of 13th at Jerez. Parkes, meanwhile, is a former runner-up in the World Supersport Championship and raced a Kawasaki for the PBM team in World Superbikes in 2009.
In the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Byrne was narrowly beaten to the title in the very last race of the season but became the most successful rider in BSB history taking his tally to 51 wins. Returning to the team he last raced with in 2012, Scotsman Stuart Easton is hoping to add to his success for the Cumbrian-based team.
All four bikes are expected to run in the traditional British Racing Green livery and the team will be officially unveiled at the London Motorcycle Show from February 14/16th.
Michael Laverty: "We learned so much in year one that I'm delighted Paul has continued his involvement with MotoGP and that he's given me the opportunity to continue with the project. Everyone has told me that year two is much easier so the aim is to put into place what we have learned and to raise our game accordingly. The class is going to be a lot tougher with the new production bikes but our aim is to consistently score points."
Broc Parkes: "Firstly, I'd like to say a massive thanks to Paul Bird for the opportunity to work with his team once again; I'm really looking forward to it. This is the premier class and it's every rider's dream to race in MotoGP. I know this is going to be a tough season but I'm certainly up for the challenge, I can't wait to get started."
Shane Byrne: "Paul and I agreed a deal ages back and I'm made up I'll be racing for the PBM Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team once again in 2014. We came so close to defending our title that it makes us even more determined to win it back this season and I know I've got the most competitive package to do that. We had a successful test in Spain earlier this week so I'm feeling confident already."
Stuart Easton: "I'm pleased to be back in British Superbikes and especially riding for PBM on the Kawasaki. It was brilliant to win the British Supersport title last year as it got me fit and back to form so now I feel I'm ready to step up to BSB again which is where I want to be. My first run out on the bike in Spain was very positive and I was on the pace so can't wait for another outing in preparation for the season ahead."
Paul Bird, Team Owner: "It's taken a little while but I've got the four riders I wanted in the two championships I wanted to race in. We've done a lot of spade work in MotoGP over the past two seasons so the plan is to build on that and work with our partners and Michael and Broc are very capable of delivering. As for BSB, it really hurt us losing our crown to Honda so Shakey's back to try and reclaim it and Stuart needed a year away from BSB and is now back in the big time with us. We have some wonderful and loyal sponsors with Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence specialists Rapid Solicitors and Fuchs Silkolene on board again and also, we'd like to welcome MAC Tools too. There's still some business to sort which will be of very big interest when we announce it so watch this space!"
The opening round of the MotoGP World Championship takes place at Qatar on 23rd March with round one of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship taking place at Brands Hatch on 21st April.