From MX-Autorsport to TAIF Motorsport
The history of the formation of one of the strongest sports car clubs in Russia
TAIF Motorsport celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2023. The racing team and the club of the same name celebrated it with a bright victory at the home stage of the DRIV Drive of the All-Russian ring racing competitions of the SMP RSKG (Russian series of Ring races) Touring. But how did the formation of the racing team begin? About this — in the continuation of the material of Realnoe Vremya about the history of the formation and development of motorsport in Tatarstan. Part two.
Motorsport is gaining momentum
Motorsport in Russia in general and Tatarstan in particular was actively gaining popularity at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. The number of clubs was growing, and along with them — the need for the tracks worthy of such intensity of emotions.
“In the development of motorsport in Tatarstan, one of the key decisions was the construction of the motordrome. Rustam Nurgalievich (Minnikhanov — editor's note) was then the head of the Vysokogorsky district. Even before that, there were people in the republic who devoted their lives to motorsport, who really loved it. And we had in the 60s — these were Ildus Khatypovich Mazitov, and Ikars, and highway-ring ones, and Petrukhin. We had motorsport — at DOSAAF, at KAI, and just amateurs who developed this sport. But it needed the right time. It's like sowing bread: the grain needs to be thrown into the fertile land. And now the necessary factors have converged in the republic. Rustam Nurgalievich himself loved and loves to race — it was one of the key decisions that gave an impetus. Babay (Mintimer Shaimiev — editor's note) also supported. But Rustam Nurgalievich — more. And that was really the grain in the fertile soil. It all started to develop very quickly, caught up. A lot of people who wanted to take part appeared," Radik Shaimiev, master of sports of international class, European champion in autocross, shared his opinion.
The master of sports of international class, prize-winner of the European Autocross Championship, champion of Russia, founder of the Genghis Khan racing team and the karting club of the same name, Dzhaudat Minnakhmetov, who headed the Vysokogorsky district in 1996, approached the improvement of the track laid by Rustam Minnikhanov seriously:
“I have already started to understand cars — racing “eights”, “nines”, UAZs. At first, the track was increased a little — it was expanded, compacted, then crushed stone was poured, because the track was like this — filled only with sand and soil. Rustam Nurgalievich actively helped us in these processes," he said.
Further — more. There appeared a dream to create our own circular track in Tatarstan.
“There are cross-country tracks. But they work a maximum of 4-5 times a year — at the stages of Russia, and the rest of the time they are idle. Half of it is asphalt, half is dirt: it's dusty. And the “circular road” is always clean and available to those who wish at any time of the year. It was my initiative. Fifty hectares of land was in my possession, and I persuaded Rustam Nurgalievich: “Let's build, there is land. We will build it for 30-40-50 million rubles.” But it turned out to be the budget of 700 million. But within 2-2,5 years we built it. It's a very good location: the track is in a canyon, and, like on a TV screen, you can see everything. I have never seen such a track anywhere where I have been — neither in Nizhny Novgorod, nor in Moscow, nor in Chechnya, nor in Smolensk...” Dzhaudat Minnakhmetov recalls about a landmark stage in the development of Tatarstan motorsport.
The track turned out to be unique: with a length of only about 3,5 kilometres (far from the longest even in Russia), it has a height difference of up to 28 metres, one of the few in the world where the direction of movement is counterclockwise, and slopes can reach 10%.
“We didn't ride on the “ring”. There's a different level. For the “ring”, there are completely different requirements: different equipment — more powerful and expensive, different technical staff and services, a different approach: there are arrivals for half an hour, and sometimes the difference is in fractions of a second. Here are our riders: Irek (Minnakhmetov — ed.), our racer Dmitry Bragin and Timur (Shigabutdinov, — ed.). But it was Irek who lured and carried everyone away with the “ring”… Every time he changed something, he did everything. He was like that in this regard — he was very worried about the approach to the case," said Dzhaudat Minnakhmetov.
As many pilots note, the Kazan track is one of the most treacherous:
“There are “traps” made there — run-off areas are gravel. Very deep. And in most cases, if the car runs off, then it no longer has a chance to return to the track. It is necessary to have a certain skill so that, flying off the track, you can get out of there. Not everyone can do it. Such an element of complexity. But it not only complicates, but also makes the ride more interesting," Dmitry Bragin, a master of sports of international class, one of the most titled motorsport athletes of modern Russia, the pilot of TAIF Motorsport team, is sure.
But about how the racer originally from Togliatti became a star of Tatarstan motor sport — a little later.
Meanwhile, motor sport in the republic was rapidly gaining momentum, each new victory of Tatarstan pilots made the hearts of boys who dream of roaring engines, speeds and, frankly, cups and medals beat faster. Active athletes became idols and role models for young people.
Not idols, but examples to follow
“Idol” — today this word sounds in almost every area of our life. Idols are those people whose achievements are impressive and make many dream of getting at least a little closer to their results. That's just those legends of motorsport of the republic, with whom the journalist of Realnoe Vremya had a chance to talk during the preparation of the material, the word “idol” is used reluctantly. They say that in motorsport it is more about role models than idols.
“For me, such an example was Vladimir Goltsov (Honoured Master of Sports of the Russian Federation, 11-time USSR rally champion, seven-time USSR champion in winter track racing, multiple winner and prize-winner of the rally, including the Dakar rally as part of KAMAZ-master team, winner of the World Cup — ed.). They once passed through Izhevsk, through Mendeleevsk — my city, on racing Moskvitch cars. It was all interesting for me. And I was lucky that during my professional career I participated in two or three races with him. Competed with him. It was important for us to learn how to ride and win prestigious races: stages in Russia, Silver Rook," recalls the master of sports of international class, champion of Russia in autocross, co-founder of Suvar club, Ilkham Rakhmatullin.
Silver Rook — the competitions of the best racing drivers of the country, which first started in Togliatti in 1973, have become one of the largest and most prestigious events in the world of light autocross and rallycross. Taking place under the wing of the Lada Sports and Technical club on Day of Machine Builder, they gather up to 80 thousand spectators. It is the dream of many racers of the country to become the winner of the competition cup, but Togliatti rarely gives this prize to guests.
“The most luxurious and prestigious race was the Silver Rook. We, the people of Tatarstan, could not win it in any way. No one succeeded. And only in 2000 it was won by Irek, my eldest son. We were so happy! He was only 19 years old then," said the master of sports of international class, winner of the European Autocross Championship, champion of Russia, founder of the Genghis Khan racing team and the karting club of the same name, Dzhaudat Minnakhmetov.
“Irek won it first. And in such a tough fight. There you have to get to the superfinal, and then you have to win it, and there are two or three races. And so Irek won first. Then Rustam Nurgalievich (Minnikhanov — editor's note), then there were more victories. It was the most prestigious race," Ilkham Rakhmatullin added to his colleague in the hobby.
Later, there were more victories, and other ones. Irek Minnakhmetov switched his attention to other disciplines: to a greater extent and very successfully he focused on racing buggies and ATVs.
In rallycross, inspired by the example of his father and older brother, since 2002, Radik Minnakhmetov began his path to increasingly significant peaks.
If their own father served as an example for Irek and Radik Minnakhmetov in motorsport, then, as Dzhaudat Minnakhmetov himself admitted, the current rais of Tatarstan had a great influence on his formation in motorsport at the time.
“Rustam Minnikhanov infected us all with the love of speed. Firstly, he has been very well versed in technology since his youth: he has been driving since the 6th grade. And he loves machines like no other. When he sees a new car, he always gets behind the wheel. And he brought some innovations to the races every time. Now he takes prizes in Tatarstan, in Russia. We travelled around Russia together: Kursk, Nizhny Novgorod, Tolyatti, Ryazan, Moscow, Dimitrovgrad. Then he decided to test himself in Europe. I also won at the stages of Europe. But they were winners — Minnikhanov became the silver medalist, and Ayrat and Radik Shaimiev became champions," he said.
Radik Shaimiev has his own point of view on the topic of “idols”:
“Again, even when I left for the army, I had a motto: 'If you defeat yourself, you will defeat everyone.' This idol is in us. There is no other way. We set these goals for ourselves. What is an idol? You can admire the number of victories without knowing what kind of person he really is. This is a difficult question... but to prove to yourself that you can is a thrill," he is sure.
Radik Shaimiev himself, who in 2003 was already confidently shining on the tracks of Europe, became the person thanks to whom another constellation appeared on the horizon of motorsport in Tatarstan and Russia — MX-Motorsport team, later renamed TAIF Motorsport.
“I always say that the main person who personally intrigued me, interested me and allowed me to look into the world of motorsport, from where I then had the desire to do this, is Radik Mintimerovich. A huge thank you to him, a huge thank you, I still remember. He is the man who showed it to me, who brought me into this world of motorsport. This is exactly the person who gave me the first sports car, racing, real, “eight”, as I remember now, with the words: “Do it if you like," said Timur Shigabutdinov, Master of Sports of international class, pilot and president of TAIF Motorsport club.
There was almost nothing in the beginning
The first name of the club was MX-Autosport. As Timur Shigabutdinov admitted, the main driving force at that time was desire. Serious infrastructure appeared later. And then — a racing car and a minimum set of necessary tools and spare parts.
“Today we have such a large team — administrators, mechanics, drivers, an excellent technical support base, etc. It all started in a small ordinary garage, where two cars could hardly fit. It was really physically possible to put two cars behind each other, two “nines”. Here is such a garage. Plus the sports car itself, plus the Gazelle and the trailer. And that's it," Timur Shigabutdinov shared his memories in an interview with the chronicler of the history of motorsport development in Tatarstan — Baer Studio.
“It was obvious that he lived by it, that there was something in the guy. There is something called desire. The desire to race. A man's desire is to test yourself somewhere and show what you can do. I am impressed that I once took part in his formation as a racer and as a person," Radik Shaimiev says warmly about the events of 20 years ago.
And Timur Shigabutdinov recklessly mastered the difficult science of extreme driving. So, in 2005, in the A-1600 test group, the pilot spent eight consecutive weekends on the track — from January 23 to March 12.
Regular participation in competitions soon bore fruit: in August 2006, the pilot for the first time rose to the podium — took second place in Division 1A in the Cup of the President of Tatarstan in autocross. As it turned out, this was the last cup played in autocross. Starting next year, rally-cross pilots were already fighting for this honourary trophy. In 2007, Timur Shigabutdinov confidently wins the first and third stages of the Tatarstan Championship. The accumulated points were not enough for the gold of the race. He had to settle for silver, losing the top step of the podium to Ildar Rakhmatullin. In 2008, Timur Shigabutdinov won another silver medal in the Tatarstan President's Cup, but this time in rallycross. And since 2011, the pilot has completely switched to this discipline and confidently won three stages out of seven. In 2012, he made his debut at the European Rallycross Championship. The first year was a trial, but in the first anniversary year for the club — 2013, participating in three stages, the pilot was consistently among the leaders of the race in the super-1600 class, and in Germany he became the second. The year 2014 was even more successful for the rider: another silver at the European Championship stage, but this time in Belgium, and gold at the President's Cup in Tatarstan.
In 2015, Timur Shigabutdinov climbed the podium of the European Championship stages three times, taking bronze in France and silver in Germany and Italy. By the way, in the same year the racing car was decorated for the first time with the emblem with the new name of the team: TAIF Motorsport. The year 2015 was also remembered for that Dmitry Bragin performed for TAIF Motorsport for the first time in the framework of the Russian series of circuit races in the national class. He immediately not only broke into the number of winners, but also snatched the victory. Therefore, it was decided to transfer the club to a new, most powerful and fastest class of discipline — Touring.
Dmitry Bragin himself, in an interview with Realnoe Vremya, recalled that he started playing for TAIF Motorsport even earlier — back in 2013. So 2023 is a double anniversary for him: 20 years of the team and 10 since he himself became a part of it. However, in 2013 we were not talking about the “ring” yet — it was a winter track racing.
“Timur Albertovich is the founder of our club and our ideological inspirer, then he himself performed. At one of the competitions, we, let's say, participated in the same class — as rivals. And he invited me to join the club. I was working at AvtoVAZ at the time, and somehow the stars aligned so that the team ceased to exist there, and then an offer was received. I didn't think much about it — I immediately accepted the offer.
Radik Shaimiev commented on the decision of the club president as follows:
“Timur Shigabutdinov should be given his due. Not amusing your ego, but to take a pilot into the team, knowing that it will be a better racer than yourself, is a difficult decision. Thinking not about yourself, not about your leadership, but about the performance of the team is worthy of respect. We are all leaders. And you yourself take the person who rides better than you. This is a professional growth!
The year 2016 was an eventful year for Timur Shigabutdinov: the racer managed not to miss a single stage, entering the tracks of all six stages of the European Championship and seven of the Russian Championship. The result is the gold of domestic competitions in the super-1600 class and the fourth place at the end of the continental championship season.
The honourary title of Master of Sports of International class was a worthy addition to the gold of the Latvian stage of the European Championship in 2019.
The pilot himself recalls his participation in international competitions as follows:
“Yes, the championship did not work out. But we have won races and very often stood on pedestals at various stages and in different countries. A special sense of pride is etched into the memory when you stand on the podium of international competitions, in Europe in particular, and the flag of Russia is raised, and the anthem of Russia is played. These are very vivid impressions that are stored in memory. These are our victories when we raised the flags of Tatarstan, Russia, TAIF Motorsport and played the anthem of our country.
The main thing is the team
Today, TAIF Motorsport is a two-time winner of the RSKG in the team competition, and Dmitry Bragin won the title of champion of Russia for the 6th time in October 2023. Timur Shigabutdinov, having decided to invite another professional pilot, Pavel Kalmanovich, to the team, completely focused on rally raids, successfully defending the colours of the team in this discipline.
He himself says about his addiction to this particular type of motorsport as follows:
“It's a special pleasure to go on rally raids. The very format of the event, the race itself, when you are not somewhere in your native point, on the same track, as in the “ring”, for example, and when you drive 200, 300, 400 kilometres in nature, in a constantly changing landscape, on different roads, on different territories, this alone is already makes rally raid races very interesting, very unusual, non-standard. The very beauty itself. You not only chase, you still have the opportunity to see all this around you.
Plus, the love of rallycross has not gone anywhere. However, since 2022, TAIF Motorsport has focused on domestic — Russian — races in this discipline. The reason is the incorrect attitude towards Russian racers by the International Motorsport Federation:
“They allowed us to participate, but on certain conditions. We, I mean Russian athletes, needed to get a sports license not in the Russian format, but somewhere in other federations, in countries. There were also restrictions on the use of Russian symbols: coats of arms, flags, anthem, etc. — all this fell under the ban. By car, on helmets and so on. And the most important thing is that if we win the stage, the Russian anthem will not sound ... After seeing such, to be honest, boorish attitude towards athletes who are not related to the political component, we decided that we would not participate in Europe," Timur Shigabutdinov explained the decision.
Moreover, the activity of the team not only did not decrease, but also increased significantly.
“If we talk about rally raids, the number of these races has increased 3 times. For comparison: there were only three stages, or even two, now the Russian Cup is five stages, the Russian Championship is six stages. Total — 11. There are more worries in rallycross as well: this year is the most difficult one for us, because it's seven stages of circuit racing, it's four stages of the Russian Cup, it's five stages of the Russian Championship, and this is not counting test events, which are almost also considered a weekend. Plus, full training of all vehicles — combat vehicles — with their own hands and forces. Plus, whatever one may say, the geopolitical situation imposes certain moments on you, this is the delivery time and the cost of all spare parts and consumables," said Farit Valeev, the director of TAIF Motorsport team.
But despite that the team of the club is relatively small: in addition to the pilots and the president, there are only six people — the director, administrator and mechanics, the team can handle the volume of tasks. The club says that this is the merit of the chief:
“The team was assembled directly by Timur Albertovich. Probably, by his incredibly correct instinct: the ability to see from the outside by a person — what he is capable of, what he can do, what he can lead to, how he can be useful to the team," Farit Valeev notes.
“TAIF Motorsport team is the leading team in Russia. It is very pleasant that we work together, as a cohesive team, on any tasks that we face. Everyone develops because of this. As pilots, as technical staff. And we all do one big thing together," Dmitry Bragin complements him.
Timur Shigabutdinov is also confident that the team is the key value and dignity of the club:
“The most important thing is that we managed to unite people in one really sports team. People who breathe motorsport, who live motorsport in the truest sense of the word. To find such people, gather them, combine ideas and tasks into one team — this, I think, is the greatest achievement in these 20 years.
With such a team, the president of TAIF Motorsport is sure that any difficulties can be overcome and any peaks will be conquered.
About what plans TAIF Motorsport is building for the foreseeable future, what is the philosophy of motor sports, what, perhaps, it lacks today, according to the elders who stood at the origins of motorsport in Tatarstan, and what they dream about today — in the next part of the material.
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