It is being reported that the team principal of F1 2010 newcomer Virgin Racing, Alex Tai, has been ousted from his post by the squad's board of directors with immediate effect – two months before the 2010 campaign even gets into gear.
Virgin Racing was officially launched in a blaze of glory last month, as Sir Richard Branson and co. assumed the reins at what had originally been Manor Grand Prix. Formerly CEO of the Virgin Galactic space flights division, Tai was installed at the helm, and his open-minded, inclusive, fan-friendly approach has already earned the ex-RAF pilot a warm reception from many within the sport [see separate story – click here
] – but not, it would seem, from everyone at Virgin.
Authoritative source grandprix.com
is reporting that Tai is no longer in charge of the Dinnington and Bicester-based operation, with the chief source of concern understood to be the fact that the 43-year-old has yet to procure a title sponsor for the season ahead, so sceptical are potential suitors given the overwhelming brand image of Virgin, whose thirst for publicity many fear would simply overshadow any other party involved. An imminent and significant commercial tie-up with Lloyds Bank, however, looks to be on the cards.
It is believed that current director of racing and Manor stalwart Graeme Lowden will take Tai's place, with his background in mechanical engineering and motor racing sponsorship on paper far better-suited to the role than Tai's comparative lack of previous experience in the field.
Lowden was the driving force behind Manor's F1 bid in the first place, but has had past dealings with controversial FIA chief steward Alan Donnelly through his internet business J2C – leading to some accusations of a conflict of interest, with Donnelly said to have aided Manor/Virgin in terms of attracting sponsorship, and Jane Nottage, an associate director of Donnelly's company Sovereign Strategy, initially looking after the team's public relations.
Nobody at Virgin Racing was available for comment.