Opinion: TAG Racing success shows anything is possible in BSB
Sometimes in life holding your hands up and admitting you were wrong is the right thing to do. I’ll be honest, I did not expect Josh Brookes’ relationship with the Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha team to result in the Aussie finishing three points off the 2017 MCE British Superbike crown.
If you’re honest, I doubt you did either. I mean, Josh Brookes is brilliant, but the odds weren’t exactly in his favour, were they? Competing against big-budget, factory supported teams like Be Wiser Ducati and JG Speedfit Kawasaki isn’t an easy task for well-established, proven British Superbike teams, let alone a small, family-run squad that scored just three points and suffered a number of reliability issues the year before.
However, the sheer will and determination of Rob Winfield and the TAG Racing team, as well as the perseverance and experience of Josh Brookes, paid off as the team went on to prove us all wrong.
It wasn’t an easy ride. Brookes is a rider used to riding for experienced, well-equipped and extremely well-funded factory supported teams, so it took some adapting for the Aussie to get used to the ways of a smaller, inexperienced family-run team. There were hiccups, there were fall outs – even at the final round Brookes struggled to hide some frustrations – but ultimately, the team put their faith in Brookes and he put his faith in the team to do their best and that paid off.
The fact it was able to work is a great example of how BSB’s tech rules create parity across the field. Shane Byrne’s bike is built in the Ducati Corse workshop in Italy and maintained by highly experienced mechanics in a purpose-built workshop at the Bird family chicken farm near Penrith. Brookes’ R1 was built and maintained in a small workshop next to the Winfield family home in Swadlincote with no support whatsoever from Yamaha. In theory, the two machines should not be able to compete against one another, but with these rules, they can.
Experience is everything in BSB. Not only do you need an experienced rider, but with machine performance so equal given the technical rules, an experienced crew is essential to get the most out of your bike. After a few tough rounds early this year, Brookes asked Rob Winfield to hire Stewart Winton, who was the Aussie’s crew chief when he stormed to the 2015 British Superbike crown.
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It was just a round after that that Brookes’ kick-started his 2017 title campaign with two runner-up spots at Snetterton, before fighting for the lead in both races at Brands Hatch and then clinching the team’s debut win at Thruxton. While this success cannot solely be attributed to Winton’s appointment, the TAG Racing squad’s decision to embrace Brookes’ and Winton’s experience with the R1 was without doubt a key move.
For me, TAG Racing’s story is one of the best to come out of BSB in 2017. Rob Winfield fittingly described it as a ‘fairy tale’ at Brands Hatch, even the most experienced racing pundits doubted whether it’d be possible, but it was and that’s got to be inspiring for other teams that find themselves in a similar position to TAG at the end of last year.
Whether you’re a factory-backed million-pound outfit or a small family team running out of a shed, with the right rider, experience and a bit of hard work and determination, anything is possible in BSB.
TAG Racing went from a back-of-the-grid team which few riders would have considered an option when looking for a ride for 2017 to having riders knocking down Rob Winfield’s door towards the end of this year. He’d eventually sign multiple BSB race winner James Ellison to continue the team’s charge as they look to cement their position at the sharp end.