Sir Richard Branson might be regarded as something of an emblematic figurehead at F1 2010 newcomer Virgin Racing, but sporting director John Booth is adamant that the billionaire entrepreneur's involvement in the project will bring far more than just an internationally-recognisable face – it will bring credibility.
Virgin is widely-viewed as the most advanced and most likely to succeed of the four new teams due to join the grid for the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix
in Sakhir in mid-March. Indeed, even before it was officially revealed that Branson and his crew were coming on-board last month, in its initial guise of Manor Grand Prix there were high hopes, with the Yorkshire outfit choosing to get quietly on with the job in-hand rather than making high-profile public announcements or indulging in wild speculation as have done some of its rivals.
Booth has been at the helm of Manor since founding the team two decades ago off the back of a racing career of his own that yielded single-seater glory. Having since turned his hand to team ownership and management with even greater success, the 55-year-old has led the Dinnington-based operation to no fewer than 171 race wins and 19 championship titles from Formula Ford to the F3 Euroseries, and nurtured young talent from Kimi Raikkonen
to Lewis Hamilton
– and now he makes it clear that he wants to recreate that kind of performance at the highest level of all.
“It was the worst-kept secret in motorsport, wasn't it!” Booth joked, speaking to Crash.net Radio
about Virgin's takeover and re-naming of the team in its own image. “It gives us tremendous credibility out there. It was a suitable vehicle to use Manor for the entry, but it was possibly always the plan for that to change.
“To have somebody like Sir Richard and Virgin on-board is a dream come true for us. When you watch Sir Richard in interviews, he's a global media figure, and one of the most recognised faces on the planet. Sponsors want to be with him, and he just brings a real buzz to the whole operation.”