Rob McElnea’s official Yamaha race team have a busy season ahead of them. Karl Harris and potentially a second rider in BSB, BJ Toal, Nick Medd and Joe Dickinson in British Supersport plus the exciting new R1 Cup.
But the team will have a very different look to it this year. Virgin Media are continuing their involvement, backing the official supersport team of Toal and Medd while Dickinson will race in a satellite team backed by Trucklinks. The R1 Cup bikes will run in the white and blue livery of Henderson Insurance Brokers.
McElnea has tried to sign Harris before and just been pipped at the post by rivals teams. He said: “I’ve talked to him for the past five years to get him on board. We virtually had him signed when he went from supersport to superbike but he stayed on a 600 for another year with the promise of an HM Plant superbike rider. Then we came close last year as a team-mate to Tommy (Hill).
“So I’m delighted he’s with us this year. I think the bike and tyres will suit him and he’s well up for it. Like us, he has a point to prove.
“He’s a straightforward, honest kind of guy and attracts a big following because of his bulldog attitude. There’s no question he’s got fire in his belly which suits us.”
McElnea reckons the changes to the BSB regulations this year, with supersport spec engines and the one-make tyre rule with Pirelli, will suit his Harris.
He said: “It will all work for us. Harris has already proved he can switch from Dunlops to Michelins and back again. He’s one of those guys who just gets on the bike and gives it everything he has.
“We’ve already raced the ’08 spec engine at the end of last year, which was pretty much at the level of the ’07 engine straight away and we’ve improved on that with the winter development programme.”
McElnea reckons that even though Harris has been announced as his sole Yamaha BSB rider for 2008 there’s still a chance he may have a team-mate.
We’re still finalising our sponsorship plans,” admitted McElnea, “and there’s still an option of a second rider on a superbike.”
This year McElnea’s team is expanded to three supersport riders with 2007 R6 Cup champion BJ Toal and Nick Medd on the Virgin Media and Joe Dickinson on a Trucklinks liveried R6.
He said: “I think BJ has the potential to become one of our best prospects to come out of the R6 Cup series. He’s so focussed.
"Nick Medd tested with us and showed a lot of potential – and with the same kit as BJ, which will be a good benchmark for him to work to.
"Joe Dickinson will be a front-runner. He’s a good kid and has done everything himself up to now in his career. He’s has support from Steve Bright at Trucklinks for a while now and Steve has also been one of our backers in the past so the whole thing dovetails neatly together.”
McElnea says Dickinson is working out of the same garage as Harris which tends to suggest the potential for some link up between Trucklinks and Harris’s BSB effort, though McElnea won’t confirm or deny this.