Team owner Paul Bird reflected on a “massively emotional” back-to-back British Superbike Championship success as Josh Brookes clinched two race wins to take the spoils for PBM VisionTrack Ducati on a highly-charged final day of the season.
But an unprecedented eighth BSB title win for Bird — on an afternoon when Christian Iddon finished third overall in the final standings for the Langwathby-based outfit — was unlike any other.
Tens of thousands of fans were missing from Brands Hatch, there was mandatory mask-wearing for those who were fortunate enough to be there and a makeshift socially distanced podium was erected for a traditional trophy-lift and champagne spray usually held on a grand rostrum.
“It’s been weird,” Bird admitted to the Herald.
“That final race would have usually had 70,000 or 80,000 spectators there so it was pretty flat.
“It would usually have been packed but there was nothing there.”
After finishing fourth in Saturday’s opening race, Brookes had led by just seven points with two rides remaining.
But the Australian went on to win both, in stunning style, and lifted the title trophy with a 54th race triumph of his career having narrowly finished runner-up by just five points in 2019 behind Scott Redding in what was a one-two for Bird’s men.
“It was massively emotional,” said the businessman of the 2020 success. “Because of the situation you’re in it was more critical to win just to keep the sponsors happy.
“It would have been a long winter if we hadn’t!
“This year I was nervous. I’m never usually that bothered but we desperately wanted to win.
“I couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep the night before, and then I couldn’t sleep on Sunday night because I still had so much adrenaline flowing.
“About half an hour after the race I was in the helicopter on the way home. I don’t like to hang about.
“There’s not a lot you can do. You can’t really have a celebration. We used to always have a celebration party here but we can’t have this year.
“We’ve been in the world championship seven years as well with being in MotoGP and World Superbikes, so we’re the team that everybody aspires to beat.
“When you know that they’re desperate to beat you, and we’re desperate not to be beaten, it’s massively emotional.
“They’ve done really well to be able to put the championship on. It’s been really good.”
It had been, he felt, “one massive team effort”.
“I just think everybody pulled together,” he said. “We have a good bike, good riders, good members of staff.
“Everybody all pulls together right down to the hospitality set-up crew.
“It’s nice to win it for my dad (Eden poultry business owner, Frank).
“He’s 84 now so he’s been a bit housebound of late; it’s nice to win it for him because it’s his money that we’ve been spending for years!
“I spoke to him and he was a bit emotional with me.”
Of the eighth BSB title win, Bird added: “That’s right up there with the best of them.
“I don’t know which would be my favourite one. It was nice to have a 1-2 last year but we’ve had a 1-3 this year which is nearly as good.
“I’d rate it right up there with the best of them.
“We’ve also got so many local fans, so many local people who follow the team, and it’s nice to have lots of messages from them. It’s been non-stop.
“This is the most I’ve ever had. It’s been mental this year.”
Bird revealed that Brookes and Iddon would be retained for the 2021 season.
“We’ve just got contracts to sign but that’s all been agreed,” he said, insisting that continuity was “important”.
“If it’s not broken it doesn’t need fixing, does it?”
Meanwhile, Brookes had said of Sunday’s success: “It feels awesome to win the title and a lot of my talking was done out on the track. When I’m under pressure, I seem to be able to find that little bit more and get the results when I need to, which is exactly what I did.
“I had to ride aggressively in both races and, although I only needed to finish third in the final race to clinch the championship, I didn’t want to win the title with a third — I wanted to win.
“It’s been a hard fought year and I was pushed hard all weekend but the bike worked really well and it felt natural to go out there and win so a big thank you to everyone at the PBM team.”
Iddon added: “I can’t thank Paul Bird and the whole VisionTrack team enough,” he said.
“They have been superb and to end up first and third in the championship is a fantastic effort.”