As Red Bull Racing aptly proved this season, you don't need an automaker's backing to rise to the top of the Formula One ladder. Any consumer company with a popular image will do the trick. Virgin has been trying to follow in Red Bull's footsteps with the launch of its own F1 team, but as Richard Branson and company have discovered, it's more than most can chew. So it should come as little surprise that the upstart team has pursued – and secured – an automaker's support for next season and beyond. The surprise is at which company that is.
You may be familiar with Marussia Motors for such quirky creations as the B2 sportscar and the F2 crossover. Now the niche Moscovite automaker has teamed up with Virgin for an undisclosed stake in the F1 team. The long-rumored deal is expected to secure space for the newly christened Marussia Virgin F1 Team for several seasons to come. Since Marussia's road cars are powered by Cosworth-developed engines, that deal is likely to remain unchanged for the F1 team as well.
The partnership is only the latest step in Russia's increased involvement in Formula One, a trend that previously resulted in the Midland F1 team, the signing of Vitaly Petrov at Renault and the upcoming Russian Grand Prix. For its part, Virgin has yet to announce its driver line-up for next season, and with Petrov's seat at Renault still yet to be confirmed, we wouldn't be surprised to see the Russian rookie in red and black next season. Follow the jump for the official announcement.
[Source: Marussia | Image: Shuji Kajiyama/AP]
Virgin Racing Looks to 2011 with Confidence
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 11 November 2010
Virgin Racing announced today that Marussia Motors has acquired a significant shareholding in the team, securing its long-term future and ensuring that it can continue to go from strength to strength in pursuit of its racing ambitions. From the 2011 season the team will be known as Marussia Virgin Racing.
Virgin Racing was established last year when Manor Motorsport joined forces with WR Technology Limited ('WRT') and Virgin to compete in the FIA Formula One World Championship. Marussia Motors is not new either to Formula One or to Virgin Racing – the nascent Russian sportscar company, headed by ex-racer Nikolay Fomenko, has been a partner of Virgin Racing since the F1 team was launched in December 2009.
"This is definitely a good news story for Virgin Racing and for Formula One," said Graeme Lowdon, Chief Executive of Virgin Racing. "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 Formula One grid and is testimony to the hard work and dedication of every single member of our team."
For Moscow-based Marussia Motors, the purchase of this shareholding reflects the new sportscar manufacturer's ambitious plans to position itself firmly on the worldwide automotive radar. The aim is to utilise Marussia Virgin Racing as a powerful international marketing platform. This also means that there will be a major Russian presence in the Formula One paddock during the build-up to the inaugural Russian Grand Prix to be staged in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in 2014.
"This is the realisation of a dream for Marussia Motors," confirmed Fomenko. "While manufacturing, launching and marketing the Marussia B1, B2 and other concepts in Europe, we will have a Formula One 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, will enable the team to develop in the sport. Specifically, there will be no significant change to the team's organisational structure as it prepares for its second season in the FIA Formula One World Championship.
Virgin Racing Team Principal, John Booth, who has overseen the team's trackside development throughout the season, is confident that the investment from Marussia gives the team the stability and focus to strengthen its position within the sport. "I am extremely proud of what we have achieved with Virgin Racing in what is really only 16 months since the team was founded. 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."
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group of companies, commented: "Our first year in Formula One was always going to be tough – even more so as we were launching in the midst of a worldwide recession. 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 Formula One grid."