Virgin Racing : officially launched !
A new team for a new era
The Virgin Racing team was officially launched in London today, where it was confirmed that one of the sport’s four new entrants, the LDC backed Manor Grand Prix, has teamed up with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin - to mount a serious challenge in one of the world’s most prestigious sports - Formula 1
Virgin Racing is a new team for a new era of Formula 1. It combines the firepower of one of the most recognised, respected and exciting brands in the world with a racing team concept that looks to exploit and capitalise upon F1’s new economic dawn and the challenges of resource restriction that is redefining the sport.
Virgin Racing also heralds a new breed of team ownership. Designer Nick Wirth returns to F1 after a decade, having enjoyed remarkable success in Indy Racing and Le Mans sports car development in the USA with his innovative and low-cost design approach. As Technical Director for Virgin Racing, Nick will apply the expertise, experience and resources of his progressive engineering group, Wirth Research, to the research, development, design and manufacture of F1’s first all-digital car design - the Virgin-Cosworth VR-01. Based in the heart of the UK’s motorsport valley in Bicester, Wirth Research has gained an international reputation for pioneering a purely CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) approach to car development, wholly designing, building and testing race cars in computer simulation without the need for expensive and resource-heavy wind tunnel testing.
Nick has joined forces with one of the very best names in national and international motor racing, John Booth, whose Manor Motorsport operation in the North of England achieved unrivalled Formula 3 success and played a major role in the development of several of today’s greatest motor racing talents. Former F1 Champions Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton both graduated from the John Booth school of excellence. John brings 20 years of motor sports pedigree to the Virgin Racing team and in the role of Sporting Director, he will lead the 45-strong race team - a team that is lean and mean consistent with the sport’s new resourcing limitations.
Alex Tai, formerly Director of Special Projects for the Virgin Group, becomes Team Principal for Virgin Racing. Virgin Racing intends to be different and innovative on all fronts. Not only will the car design and economics reflect the new era , the team and it’s management intends to engage it’s stakeholders differently too. All the sponsors will be in an unique position to best benefit from the scope and scale of Virgin’s brand and associated companies. In addition the team will strive to emulate the values of the core Virgin brand and its many achievements on the global business stage: value for money, good quality, brilliant customer service, innovation, competitively challenging and fun. And last but most importantly – the fans. Virgin Racing has serious on-track ambitions and an engaging marketing programme, set to roll out in 2010, will invite F1 fans along for a thrilling , close up and personal ride
Etienne de Villiers, non-executive Chairman brings a wealth of business, media , marketing and brand experience as a result of his 15 years spent at the Walt Disney company and recently as chairman of BBC Worldwide. He also has considerable experience in the world of professional sport, serving as a director of Saracens Rugby, and SLEC, the former holder of F1’s commercial rights. He was also President of the ATP World Tour, the body representing men’s professional tennis. He said:
“Formula 1 is one of the greatest international sports franchises and offers great rewards to those that get it right. It is a remarkably challenging environment that pits the best against the best in an ever changing landscape. The new limitations and entrants makes it even more demanding but also more attractive .I am really confident that the mix of resources, experience ,skills and values that Virgin Racing bring to the party will surprise a few and hopefully entertain and reward many”
Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Group, said: “We have had a fantastic first year in Formula 1 and it was incredible to be sponsoring a team that fought so hard to win both championships. We are huge fans of the sport and we spent a lot of time exploring all the options for a longer-term involvement.
“Over the last four decades Virgin has invested in and supported incredible engineering minds who have literally been pushing the technological boundaries of what man previously believed was possible: boats capable of smashing world records, balloons that captured the imagination of millions around the globe, a plane built purely from carbon composite that flew around the world not once, but 2.5 times without refuelling, and with Virgin Galactic we are investing in technology that will literally push the boundaries off our planet! Virgin Racing will be no different.
“We knew there was an extremely successful designer out there who could bring something different to the sport with his all-digital approach to designing racing cars. So we thought ‘why not back a new British team?’ I believe that with the right bunch of people you can achieve anything. It might take a while to get there, but I believe with this team of people on board, Virgin Racing can go all the way.”
Nick Wirth, Technical Director said: “This is an incredible day for everyone involved with Virgin Racing. The past year has been something of a rollercoaster ride as we first conceived the idea of entering Formula 1 and then navigated the route to our launch today in 12 very busy but rewarding months. I am immensely proud to be part of a team that isn’t simply ‘making it to the grid’, but which has surpassed even our wildest expectations - technically, in our racing operation and also commercially.
“When I left the sport in ’99 I admit that I was disappointed and disillusioned. I felt that Formula 1 had become like Boeing versus Airbus. Teams were spending a million pounds a year on wheel nuts, with hundreds of engineers battling against each other for supremacy. I had absolute belief in the digital design approach but I knew I would have to wait for the F1 world to change. So we decided to prove the process in the USA, first in Indy Car and then in Sports Cars, in which we achieved phenomenal success. As soon as I heard about the proposals for a budget-capped Formula 1, the opportunity to prove the all-CFD approach at the highest level was too exciting for words. F1 under resource restriction? Welcome to my world.
“So here we are, a fully fledged Formula 1 team with our first car well underway. Our crash testing performance has been exemplary and we are progressing very much on plan towards the roll-out of the VR-01 in February. We have a fantastic driver line-up in Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi and we’re delighted to welcome Alvaro Parente in the role of Test and Reserve driver. Everything has really come together for us and I for one cannot wait to see what this incredible team of people can achieve together as Virgin Racing.”
Sporting Director John Booth commented: “I’ve never had any ambitions to be in Formula 1, purely because it was so out of reach. The FIA in their wisdom quite rightly decided to introduce some sort of cost restriction. At the same time as making Formula 1 more affordable for its current competitors, it opened up our own horizons and that of other teams. I think Nick is a design genius and I have absolute faith in his ability to design a fantastic car. In turn he has the belief in our ability to run it. There is already a great chemistry within the team and this is inspiring a lot of confidence. We’ve kept our heads down for the last few months and just got on with what we needed to do, but now people are starting to see what we are achieving.
“In 2010 my idea of success is to run reliably, safely and efficiently and earn the respect of our peers in the paddock. We need to perform well as a team. Then we can start carrying that through into car performance. Our clear objective is to end the season as the best of the new teams.”
Director of Racing, Graeme Lowdon said: “I believe that Virgin Racing has all the constituent parts to be successful both on and off the track. Our racing pedigree under the guidance of John Booth has grown out of many seasons of race and championship wins. Nick Wirth has an unprecedented record in delivering successful race cars under resource restricted conditions and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group brings an added dimension with which to mould the shape of Virgin Racing going forward. Adding the experience of our investors, LDC and our excellent staff, drivers and team members, I truly believe that Virgin Racing represents a new approach to racing built on absolutely solid foundations.”
CEO and Team Principal, Alex Tai commented: “At Virgin Racing we have a remarkable group of experienced people who have come together to make the impossible possible. Virgin Racing is a real racing team founded by real racer which has a clearly defined path towards achieving success. This will be our core focus, but at the same time we intend to be a team with great spirit. Over the past few months we’ve spent a lot of time understanding the contribution we can make to the sport, the fans and our partners. We have ambitious plans for 2010 and I am delighted that these have inspired the confidence of the nine new sponsor partners we have announced within our official launch today.”