Russian firm buys stake in Virgin Racing

Updated: November 11, 2010, 8:40 AM ET
Associated Press

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Russian sports car manufacturer Marussia Motors bought a "significant" stake in Virgin Racing's Formula One team Thursday.

Marussia, lead by former racer Nikolay Fomenko, has been a sponsor of Virgin Racing since the team formed in 2009, but said its decision to buy a stake in the company is part of its overall goal to raise its profile in the sport.

"This is a realization of a dream for Marussia Motors," Fomenko said. "We will have a Formula One team ... to demonstrate to the world that a new car manufacturer has arrived from Russia with truly global ambitions."

Virgin Racing, which has had one of the lowest budgets this season, has said the deal will give it much-needed stability. Neither Marussia nor the team would say how much the Russian firm was investing.

"I can't give any specific numbers irrespective of the investors themselves," Virgin racing chief executive Graeme Lowdon said. "But what I can say is that the investment from Marussia is sizable and significant and will make a real and tangible difference to the security of the team but also to the competitiveness of the team moving forward."

Marussia's investment is the latest sign that of Formula One's growing popularity in Russia.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a deal in October with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone to bring F1 racing to Russia starting in 2014, and earlier this month he took an F1 car for a spin as part of an effort to raise the sport's profile. The six-year deal with Formula One also includes an option to extend it for a further five.

Fomenko said the numbers of Formula One fans has increased significantly in recent years, helped this season by the arrival in the sport of Vitaly Petrov. The Renault driver is Russia's first in Formula One.

"Due to the appearance of Petrov in Formula One, the interest has rocketed up," Fomenko said. "Construction of the circuit is helping a lot to increase interest in Formula One."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press