That automaker is PSA Peugeot Citroën, which has just confirmed a deal with Richard Branson's Virgin Racing team for next season. Rather than put either the Peugeot or Citroën brands into the deal – both of which have long established racing histories – PSA has opted to use the opportunity to promote its new DS brand. The premium spin-off from Citroën was recently separated as its own brand under the Peugeot SA umbrella, and though its DS3 hatchback is well represented in the World Rally Championship, it's technically campaigned there by Citroën Racing.
In announcing the deal, Branson and DS brand chief Yves Bonnefont spoke of co-branding opportunities and the excitement that lies ahead for the nascent electric racing series. However they did not get into specifics of the technical collaboration, saying only that DS will "bring its technological expertise in research and development of the race car, together with the design strategy of Virgin Racing Engineering." The series has run this year on a closed formula that saw each team running the same package with no modifications allowed, but is slowly opening up the rule book for next season to allow the teams and their technical partners to develop key components.
The impetus for PSA's entry, in whatever form, is said to have come directly from the company's chief executive Carlos Tavares. Previously the Number 2 at Renault, Tavares is thought to have been one of the driving forces behind Renault's participation in the series. His previous employers supply the powertrain for the Spark-Renault SRT_01E electric racer and support the e.dams-Renault team.
Prior to getting on board the Formula E series, Virgin Racing had been a Formula One team. The outfit first hit the grid in 2010 before taking Marussia on as a partner the following season, then leaving it to the Russian backers, who in turn withdrew support at the end of last season. The team is currently competing as Manor, but in six seasons on the grid has only managed to score two championship points when Jules Bianchi finished the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix in ninth place. Virgin has found better fortune in Formula E, winning the second round in Malaysia with Sam Bird behind the wheel.
The Virgin Racing Formula E team backed by Sir Richard Branson, and the DS Brand, represented by CEO, Yves Bonnefont, have today announced a new partnership and the creation of the DS Virgin Racing team taking effect ahead of the 2015/16 FIA Formula E season.
The new partnership will see the DS brand, through its Motorsport Division, bring its technological expertise in research and development of the race car, together with the design strategy of Virgin Racing Engineering. The aim is to deliver the infrastructure, racing experience and design and integration expertise to compete at the highest levels and to win Championships.
Speaking about the partnership, Virgin Racing Team Principal Alex Tai said, "Our collaboration with the DS brand is not only a partnership between two amazing brands, but is a great opportunity to showcase our intent of winning FIA Formula E championships. In addition, it highlights our ambitions to be at the forefront of pioneering new technology in Formula E to aid the technology transition to road cars."
Founder of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, added, "I'm absolutely delighted that Virgin Racing has found a partner of the calibre of the DS brand. In Season 1, Formula E has delivered on its vision of creating exciting, fan-friendly racing spectacles where almost any team can win; now I look forward to building on this in Season 2 and with our new partner DS, aiming to compete to win multiple Championships. I'm thrilled that Virgin Racing is playing a leading role in another of Formula E's visions, that of attracting the large automotive OEMs into the sport in order that the technology that is developed flows down into the cars that we can all drive. I have no doubt the partnership will prove a great success, not only on track but also in providing a catalyst to develop the electric vehicles of the future."
Yves Bonnefont, CEO of the DS brand, mentioned, "The engagement of the DS brand in Formula E with our partner Virgin Racing is fully consistent with the brand's positioning. We fully share the values of Formula E: avant-garde technology and proximity to the public. The experiences that we will accumulate thanks to the races are key factors for us in the improvement of our technology directly serving our customers."