Virgin Racing claims to have secured its long-term F1 future with a deal that sees 2010 sponsor Marussia Motors taking a significant shareholding in the team.
As a result of the buy-in, the team will be known as Marussia Virgin Racing from the start of next season, as the Russian automotive operation builds on a relationship with Virgin that began at the start of its F1 adventure in 2009. The then nascent sportscar brand dipped its tow in the F1 waters last season, but became a partner of the Virgin programme when it was confirmed as a new addition to the grid late last year.
“This is definitely a good news story for Virgin Racing and for F1,” said Virgin Racing CEO Graeme Lowdon, “Marussia Motors has been a much-valued team partner throughout the 2010 season and we are delighted to introduce them formally as the significant shareholder in Virgin Racing and a major force in the team's future. This announcement cements our place on the F1 grid and is testimony to the hard work and dedication of every single member of our team.”
For Moscow-based Marussia Motors, the shareholding reflects the sportscar manufacturer's ambitious plans to position itself firmly on the worldwide radar. The aim, according to founder - and former racer - Nikolay Fomenko, is to use Marussia Virgin Racing as a powerful international marketing platform.
“This is the realisation of a dream for Marussia Motors,” he admitted, “While manufacturing, launching and marketing the Marussia B1, B2 and other concepts in Europe, we will have a F1 team to promote these activities and demonstrate to the world that a new car manufacturer has arrived from Russia with truly international ambitions.”
The investment by Marussia Motors, alongside strategic investor LDC, should enable the team to plan more ambitiously for the longer term. After recently being included among Bernie Ecclestone's 'cripples' at the back of the field, the Dinnington team will hope to move up the order in 2011, even though, unlike fellow newcomers Lotus and HRT, it has not announced a tie-up with an established manufacturer. Instead, the team will press ahead with a second car from Nick Wirth's CFD technology.
Crucially, too, there will be no significant change to the team's organisational structure as it prepares for its second season, and team principal John Booth, who has overseen the team's development throughout 2010, is confident that the investment from Marussia gives the team the stability and focus to strengthen its position.
“I am extremely proud of what we have achieved with Virgin Racing in what is really only 16 months since the team was founded," he noted, "I am delighted that the significant efforts of the team have been recognised and have attracted the commitment of Marussia Motors, which will enable us to move forward and deliver against our five year target for success.”
“Our first year in F1 was always going to be tough - even more so as we were launching in the midst of a worldwide recession," Virgin brand founder Sir Richard Branson added, "Virgin is delighted to have secured a partner which shares our vision and spirit for challenging the establishment and we look forward to working together to move the team up the grid.”