Virgin Racing boss Alex Tai says his parent company is unfazed by the challenge of fighting for glory with its own team in Formula 1 this season.
Less than a year after Richard Branson's Virgin Group entered F1 as a sponsor of Brawn GP, it has taken over the Manor outfit to campaign under its own banner for the 2010 campaign. Although that step up has presented Virgin with a steep learning curve, Tai believes the company's experiences outside of motor racing have put it in good stead for what lies ahead.
"There is a certain amount of mystique in Formula 1, that it is this sort of mafia that you're getting involved with," explained Tai. "The Virgin brand has been in much more difficult circumstances in the past. When Richard started in the record industry, that's not the easiest industry.
"In the airline industry there were an incredible amount of dirty tricks, which have been well reported, that the Virgin brand had to stride through. Richard turned around British Rail into a fantastic rail franchise. These are all things that required an awful lot of determination. We have a certain amount of character that we bring to Formula 1."
Tai believes that Virgin's chances of success in F1 have also been boosted by the fact that the competitors currently share a spirit of cooperation through the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA).
"What we're finding, and what I'm finding sitting on the Formula 1 Commission and in FOTA, is that everyone needs to look at the collective health of the sport, and we're finding that there's an awful lot of helpful assistance being given to us by other teams," he said. "We're all finding that our collective health is based upon a stable platform in the sport. We will fight tooth and nail on track. We will absolutely drive through other teams on the way to success on track. But we will probably be very collegiate off the track and behind closed doors.
"I think that's really important now. I think the Formula One Teams' Association provides that unanimity and that collegiate approach, and I've got to say it's not a piranha club, it's not full of sharks, and we've been in much more difficult situations in the past. Richard has provided an awful lot of training for his CEOs to get through those sorts of situations."
Tai also says that Branson has weighed up the benefits of being in F1, and believes the team has what it takes to remain in the sport for the long term.
"The Virgin name is difficult to get. Richard needs to see a sound business plan, something that's sustainable. We do not want to be coming into the sport and then coming out again in a year's time. We've had a very arduous process over the last six or seven months to earn our Virgin spurs, as it were. We've found ourselves in a situation where the business model actually does work and we believe we have sustainability."