Virgin Racing launched

The Virgin Racing Formula 1 team was officially launched in London today, where it was confirmed that one of the sport’s four new entrants has teamed up with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin brand to embark on an exciting F1 (ad)venture.

300 guests assembled at the Louise Blouin Foundation in Notting Hill, the London district where it all began for the Virgin brand. The Rick Parfitt Jr band provided the icebreaker before the venue rocked to the electrifying sound of a Formula 1 car courtesy of a collection of up and coming musicians playing electric guitars.

Richard Branson and the Virgin Racing management team of Nick Wirth, John Booth and Alex Tai outlined the vision for their lean, mean racing machine and revealed the team’s dynamic young driver line-up. Alongside Timo Glock were two new additions to the Virgin Racing stable – Brazilian hot shot Lucas di Grassi and GP2’s Portuguese revelation Alvaro Parente.

Virgin Racing also welcomed no fewer than nine new partners to the team.

Virgin Racing had better get used to the lights, cameras and action. A star is now born and the countdown to the 2010 curtain-raiser has begun.

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."

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