Virgin Racing has served notice of its intent to work its way up the grand prix grid by confirming rumours that it has secured a technical partnership with McLaren as well as a new base in acquiring that of its former technical partner Wirth Racing Technologies (WRT).
Virgin announced just over a month ago that it had parted company with technical director Nick Wirth [see separate story – click here
], whose utter belief in the unconventional aerodynamic doctrine of CFD flew somewhat in the face of general F1 wisdom – and was blamed by many for the team's abject start to proceedings in 2011, currently languishing at the very bottom of the constructors' standings.
At the time, Virgin Racing CEO Andy Webb enigmatically revealed that the team planned to 'take greater control of its own destiny' and to that end, would henceforth be 'pursuing an alternative technical path', without divulging any further details.
Now, those details are somewhat clearer, with a long-term technical partnership with McLaren Applied Technologies that will permit Virgin access to McLaren facilities, knowledge and capabilities, including the Woking-based outfit's test rigs, driver-in-the-loop simulator, supply chain experience and CFD and CAE techniques such as race strategy tools. The tie-up will also see McLaren management and production staff embedded within the team, working in roles permitted by the Concorde Agreement.
'While Marussia Virgin Racing continues its commitment to CFD as a technology, in order to progress at the rate of development required to achieve its racing ambitions, the team will use every means available to improve the aerodynamics of its F1 racing cars, including access to the McLaren wind tunnel,' underlined an official statement.
The new collaboration will not affect Virgin's existing engine-supply relationship with Cosworth, whilst to add another major string to its bow, the John Booth-led outfit has purchased WRT's cutting-edge technical centre in Banbury, Oxfordshire. The premises will be used for the next two years, as Virgin progresses its plans to develop a tailor-made new facility more suited to its long-term ambitions within the sport and allowing the team to come together under the same roof.
Former Renault F1 executive director of engineering Pat Symonds will remain on-board as a consultant, too – a position that he has occupied since February, 2011. The Englishman has been credited with playing a major role in determining Virgin Racing's future technical direction.
“When we undertook our detailed review of the team in the first half of 2011, it was clear that our bold ambitions for the future would need to be matched with some equally bold steps towards achieving them,” affirmed Webb, palpably enthusiastic about the exciting new developments. “I am delighted that in a relatively short space of time, we are now in the fantastic position of being able to make these two very important announcements, which will enable us to make some dramatic strides forward with immediate effect.
“Our technical partnership with McLaren is very exciting indeed. McLaren is one of the most prestigious and successful marques in grand prix racing history, with an enviable record of success over many years. We can benefit enormously from McLaren's far-reaching techniques and capabilities, and I have no doubt that this partnership will see us take the technical steps necessary to make a significant leap forward.