11 July 2011
Virgin to headline Sochi Speed Festival
Marussia Virgin Racing is to headline this weekend's Sochi Speed Festival even as it looks to step up its racing operations in partnership with McLaren.
Marussia Virgin Racing, fresh from inking a technical support deal with McLaren before the British Grand Prix, is hoping to wow Russian fans with a rare taste of F1 as it gears up to move into a new phase of its development.
The backmarker, which finds itself battling with the equally hapless Hispania Racing at each grand prix, will also kick-start preparations for the first-ever Russian Grand Prix, due to take place in Sochi in 2014, by taking part in the city's Speed Festival this coming weekend.
Race drivers Timo Glock and Jérôme d'Ambrosio will provide Russian F1 fans with the chance to see a grand prix car at close quarters, as they race on a temporary circuit built around the Black Sea resort on Sunday [17 July]. In addition to the on-track action, the pair - who finished 16th and 17th at Silverstone - will take part in a busy programme of promotional activities which, in keeping with the Virgin team's fan-friendly personality, will be key to connecting with the sport's burgeoning Russian following. Marussia Motors, a major investor and title sponsor of the team, will also showcase its first Russian supercar.
“Marussia Virgin Racing's first Russian connection was made at the team's inception in 2010, when Marussia Motors became one of our sponsors and, during the course of that year, they witnessed at close quarters the tremendous passion, commitment and determination within the team," principal John Booth commented, "In November last year, decided to invest in us, and we are now extremely proud to be competing under a Russian licence.
"This is just the start of what we hope will be a very warm relationship with the Russian fans. To underline our determination to succeed we have recently announced a new technical partnership with McLaren and a new technical base for the team, and we are honoured to be bringing the F1 experience to them in Sochi next weekend. We hope that they will take Marussia Virgin Racing to their hearts.”
The tie-up with McLaren was naturally a source of interest over the British Grand Prix weekend, with Booth fielding questions about the future direction of Marussia Virgin Racing almost from the moment he arrived at Silverstone.
"We're obviously very excited to have a technical partnership with McLaren - it is a wonderful opportunity to tap into years and years of experience and knowledge and give us a real leg up as we look to develop our 2012 car," he admitted, underlining the team's decision to dispense with the services of Nick Wirth, who had designed its first two cars solely using CFD techniques.
"Marussia became a stakeholder in Virgin Racing six months ago, and they have led an overview of the team over those six months [which suggested] we needed to take decisive steps to move forward. It was evident from the start of this year that we weren't moving forward as quickly as we wanted to. In fact, arguably, not at all performance-wise, so we had to take steps to ensure the future of the team and put us on a positive footing. [Dropping Wirth and buying up Wirth Racing Technologies] is the result. We need to take control of our own destiny and we now have our own design team working on the car for next year."
Booth was unable to confirm how many personnel may be seconded from McLaren, in the same way as Force India was given access to Simon Roberts, who was director of racing operations in Woking at the time of their technical tie-up, but said that the foundations of the existing team would continue to play a major role, even though there was a double-page spread of job advertisements in the British motorsport media last week.
"The deal was only finalised seven days ago," Booth emphasised, "Although it is in operation as of now, I think it is an ongoing process working towards next year's car.
"The base of the team is together. We are carrying people forward with us from our existing programme. We have some fantastic people that have been with us from day one and we are carrying the majority of those forward with us and we are just adding as we go along. The process is underway for next year. Design has started, it's a good way down the line. It is just a matter of adding and building to that design team now."
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