Friday, February 13, 2015

News: Manor F1 Team: "We just want to go racing"


The F1 team that began life as Manor Grand Prix in Dinnington, Rotherham, is pushing hard to make it onto the grid in 2015, despite being in administration, for now.

FRP Advisory LLP were appointed joint administrators at the end of October to Manor Grand Prix Racing Limited, trading as the Marussia F1 Team, who were unable to bring new investment to the team to secure its long term future.

An unlikely name in the Formula One World Championship, Manor Grand Prix secured financial backing from LDC and became Virgin Racing when they announced a link up with Richard Branson in December 2009. Russian company, Marussia Motors acquired a significant shareholding in 2010 and the team became Marussia Virgin Racing. For the 2012 season, the team became Marussia F1 and operations moved from Rotherham to Banbury in Oxfordshire to be closer to McLaren, its technical partners for the 2012 season.

Without further financial backing from Marussia's owner, the company ceased trading in October, resulting in 200 redundancies. The remnants of the team have been working hard to get the team going again, having secured a spot on the provisional entry list for the 2015 championship and still harbouring the potential £30m in prize money due to its progress on the track last season.

After earlier investment deals fell through, the administrators recently initiated a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) process which could see the company exit administration next week. A CVA is often used by insolvent companies to negotiate new payment terms or periods with its creditors. The main creditors of Manor Grand Prix Racing Limited are Lloyd's, who invested in the fledgling team, and Ferrari, the team's supplier in 2014.

Geoff Rowley, joint administrator and partner at FRP Advisory, said: "Since the appointment of administrators, negotiations have taken place with a number of parties to try and secure a long-term solution for the team.

"We can confirm that negotiations continue towards a longer term viable solution for the business and participation of a team in the 2015 season.

"It is envisaged that, prior to the commencement of the first race of the 2015 season [in March], investment into the business will be made upon the company exiting from administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement, which is planned for 19 February 2015."

The investors remain confidential but have either met with or spoken to the key F1 bodies.

With money ready to be invested in the operation, one thing that could throw a spanner in the works is the politics of the sport. The Manor F1 team now has to gain the unanimous consent from all teams that it can race a 2014 car in the 2015 championship.

The team has been busy preparing its 2014 cars such that they comply with the stipulations of the sport's influential Strategy Group and at the same time it is pressing on with the development of its 2015 car to ensure it can supersede the 2014 car as soon as possible.

Graeme Lowdon, former sporting director at Marussia F1 and a representative of the Manor F1 team, said: "It has been a very good step to finally get the CVA process underway this week. This is the first external sign that we have been able to make of all the hard work that has taken place privately over the past four months to get us to our current position.

"We are proceeding with our clear process regarding compliance and building our operation. We are doing everything possible to adhere to the process set out for us to return to the 2015 grid. This is a fantastic good news story for the whole sport and we just want to go racing."
Rotherham-born John Booth (pictured), a former butcher and single-seater champion, has remained as the team principal throughout. The team was established to compete in Formula 1 when the FIA, the sport's governing body, decided to address the current levels of spend and introduced cost-cutting measures.

Booth's Manor Motorsport is one of the most respected names in national and international motor racing. His Dinnington operation achieved great success in Formula 3 and Formula Renault and played a major role in the development of several of today's greatest motor racing talents. Former Formula 1 champions Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton both graduated from the John Booth school of excellence.

The administrators stated that the operations at Banbury were to be discontinued and the site was due to be vacated in January. Could a revived Manor F1 Team be based back in Rotherham where Manor's Todwick Road site remains mothballed?

Manor F1 website

Images: Marussia


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