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."

Marussia is also familiar to Virgin engine supplier Cosworth, which has developed powertrain systems for its range of road cars, including the B1 and B2 sportscars which made their debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year. Deliveries of the Cosworth-developed V6 turbo Marussia B1 engine and six-speed paddleshift automatic transmission commenced this autumn with production at Marussia's Moscow factory coordinated closely with Cosworth.

"Marussia has proven to be an excellent automotive client for Cosworth, and it is a significant step for them to have opted to invest in Virgin Racing and further develop their relationship with us," Cosworth's Mark Gallagher commented, "We have already been working closely with Marussia over the last twelve months and are fully engaged in assisting them with their ambitions to become the first upmarket, global Russian automotive company.

"Following the news that an F1 race will be held for the first time in Russia in 2014, Marussia's important announcement concerning Virgin Racing further illustrates the impact the sport is beginning to make across Russia, and is therefore a welcome development."

As Gallagher points out, the Marussia deal ensures that there will be a significant Russian presence in the paddock during the build-up to the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, scheduled to be staged in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in 2014. It also raises the question, however, of next year's driver line-up at Virgin. With Lucas di Grassi already understood to be under threat from Belgium's Jerome d'Ambrosio, and Timo Glock continually being linked to a move elsewhere - despite having a contract - it opens the possibility of a Russian driver being drafted into the team for 2011.

The most obvious move could be to swap Glock for Vitaly Petrov, as the German has been mentioned in connection to a seat at Renault, although Aleshin is looking to step up to F1 after claiming the World Series by Renault crown this season and has been rumoured as a candidate, either as race or test driver, for several midfield teams next season.

Prior to the Marussia announcement in Abu Dhabi, Virgin revealed that it had struck a new long-term partnership with international direct selling brand QNet, which will begin from this weekend's season finale at Yas Marina.

QNet logos will feature on the sidepods of both VR-01s, as well as Glock and di Grassi's racewear. The company previously backed the Meritus GP2 Asia Series team, as well as others in both FBMW Asia and the regional Renault V6 series.



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