Having finished 2010 bottom of the pile, Virgin Racing technical director Nick Wirth says he is confident that the team can jump ahead of rivals Lotus and Hispania in 2011.
The team's finishing record meant it finished behind its fellow newcomers at the end of its debut season, but Wirth said work was on schedule on the VR-02 and added that he was confident that the car would allow the Manor-run team to take steps forward.
"The car has passed all the FIA crash tests and the gearbox is on the dyno being tested," he told Motorsport.com
. "Obviously at this time of the year in terms of car development and with our business plan, our level of investment is some way off the more established teams. We are somewhat in the hands of our suppliers - especially for those parts we don't build in-house. But we have a great set of external companies who are working tirelessly to ensure we stay on schedule, ready for the first test of the new car.
"Firstly, the aim of this year is to make sure the car is reliable - unlike last year, make sure we can get enough fuel in it - unlike last year and ensure we do all we can to help the drivers get the most out of the car as possible. Obviously our intention is to compete with and beat the teams that joined the sport with us last year.
"We want to get to the point where on pure performance; we can start to regularly beat Team Lotus and one of the teams that were competing before we joined, in qualifying at least. If we can start doing that then it means we could be regularly getting into Q2. Once we can do that, then with drivers of the ability we have - particularly in Timo, we can start to think about picking up our first world championship point but there is a job to do before we get to that point."
Wirth added that he was confident that his design team, which continues to work with CFD technology as opposed to using a wind tunnel, would be able to get to grips with the new regulations in place for 2011, which includes the return to KERS and the employment of moveable rear wings.
"The moveable wings have definitely been a very interesting challenge," he said. "They are an unproven quantity in terms of on-track testing and while I am confident we have done a good job with our car, I'm not saying we wont get some issues. I think its going to be more of a challenge for the race engineers and the drivers because the new regulations will have a stunning effect on the way the car goes round the track.
"The way it will be used will be so different from qualifying spec and race day spec. In free practice and qualifying, you can use it on every straight but in the races it's going to be restricted to usage on one or two straights so the effect on the gearing is going to be dramatic and interesting."