Virgin Racing will be part owned by Russian specialist car maker Marussia, following a deal struck this week, which shows the growing Russian interest in the sport. The news follows on from the announcement that Russia will host a Grand Prix in Sochi starting in 2014 and that Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin tested a Renault F1 car as a guest of team owner Gerard Lopez.
Like all Virgin’s sponsors, Marussia wants to plug into Virgin’s vast network of customers and communications channels. Marussia wants to go further than that, however. The intention is that its brand should appear in the Virgin team name, which means that along with the renaming of the current Lotus team and the Lotus Renault branding destined for the current Renault F1 team, there will be some new names on the grid next year. Sauber will also drop the BMW part of its name.
The deal was announced today at Yas Marina Circuit and according to the Financial Times, Marussia is buying part of the stake owned by LDC, the private equity arm of British bank Lloyds. The figure of €10 million has been suggested as LDC’s original investment. The other shareholders are Virgin, Manor Motorsport and Wirth Research.
Marussia is run by Nikolai Fomenko, who said that the deal would be “a powerful marketing stage for our new company. We want want it to be a symbol of pride, self-belief and inspiration for the people of Russia”. The road cars use Cosworth engines, as do Virgin Racing.
Yesterday Virgin announced that it had signed a new sponsor, Qnet, which sells a range of wellness and lifestyle products and services through an e-commerce platform.
Virgin has stuck to the intention of Max Mosley’s budget cap proposal, namely running the team on £40 million per season. The arrival of Marussia, which plans compete with Porsche and Aston Martin and to build 2,000 cars a year by 2014, is reminiscent of Spkyer, which bought the former Jordan team from Midland