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Di Grassi to partner Glock at Virgin Racing 15 Dec 2009

(L to R) Timo Glock, Richard Branson, Lucas di Grassi. Virgin Racing announce that they will enter F1 in 2010 re-branding the Manor F1 Team. Louise Blouin Foundation, London, UK. 15 December 2009. Back row (l-r): Nick Wirth (GBR) Technical Director Virgin Racing; Alex Tai (MAL) Team Principal Virgin Racing; Richard Branson (GBR), CEO Virgin Group, rear centre, John Booth (GBR) Sporting Director Virgin Racing; Graeme Lowdon (GBR) Director of Racing Virgin Racing. Front row (l-r): Luiz Razia (BRA) test driver; Timo Glock (GER); Lucas di Grassi (BRA); Alvaro Parente (POR) test driver. Virgin Racing launch London, UK. 15 December 2009. L-R: Richard Branson (GBR) CEO Virgin Group; Timo Glock (GER) and John Booth (GBR) Sporting Director Virgin Racing. Virgin Racing announce that they will enter F1 in 2010 re-branding the Manor F1 Team. Louise Blouin Foundation, London, UK. 15 December 2009. Alex Tai (MAL) Team Principal Virgin Racing; Richard Branson (GBR) Virgin Group CEO; Nick Wirth (GBR) Virgin Racing Technical Director; Graeme Lowdon (GBR) Virgin Racing Director of Racing; John Booth (GBR), Virgin Racing Sporting Director. Virgin Racing announce that they will enter F1 in 2010 re-branding the Manor F1 Team. Louise Blouin Foundation, London, UK. 15 December 2009.

Brazilian driver Lucas di Grassi will partner Toyota refugee Timo Glock at Virgin Racing next season as the all-new team tackle their first Formula One campaign. Portugal’s Alvaro Parente and Brazil's Luiz Razia will serve as test drivers.

The signing of Di Grassi, Renault’s third driver for the past two seasons, was confirmed in London on Tuesday as Virgin officially unveiled their team identity, by their own admission ‘the worst kept secret in F1’.

Glock was confirmed several weeks ago by British squad Manor GP, who had their 2010 entry accepted by the FIA prior to finalising their deal with Virgin. Di Grassi, 25, has spent the past four seasons competing in GP2, finishing runner-up in 2007, and tested for Renault at the recent young driver session at Jerez.

“I could never have imagined a debut as perfect as this one,” said the Brazilian. “And I believe I am ready for F1. I have worked a lot over the years to get here and I believe it happened just in time. Being here with them makes more sense to me than to be with a veteran organisation. We will debut together, and that detail makes for a special bond too. I am ready to work 24/7 and I am sure I will be able to contribute to the team's efforts in every stage of our evolution in 2010.”

Glock added: "I think it is a great opportunity for me. It is different to everything that I have done before but in a fun and positive way. I think everyone knows that Virgin Racing is a serious team. They want to be in F1, they want to succeed in the future and I am happy to be on board."

Parente, 25, is another GP2 veteran, with two wins in the last two seasons, and a former British F3 champion. He tested for the Renault Formula One team after winning the 2007 Formula Renault 3.5 series. Razia, 20, also raced in GP2 in 2009.

Virgin also confirmed the team’s management line-up on Tuesday. Team principal is Alex Tai, who has worked closely with Virgin boss Richard Branson since 1997, his most recent post being chief operating officer of Virgin Galactic, the company’s commercial space flight wing.

“At Virgin Racing we have a remarkable group of experienced people who have come together to make the impossible possible,” commented Tai. “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.”

Sporting director is Englishman John Booth, former racer and the man behind Manor Motorsport, who lodged the team’s original entry as Manor GP. Founded in 1990 and based in South Yorkshire in the UK, Manor have become a major force in national and international motorsport, winning in Formula Renault and Formula Three with the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton.

“In 2010 my idea of success is to run reliably, safely and efficiently and earn the respect of our peers in the paddock,” said Booth. “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.”

In 2009 Booth teamed up with fellow Briton Nick Wirth, the man behind Wirth Research and now technical director of Virgin Racing. Wirth, former boss of the Simtek Formula One team, has a wealth of F1 experience. He is a former chief designer for Benetton and his first all-digital F1 car design - the Virgin-Cosworth VR-01 - will break cover in February 2010.

“This is an incredible day for everyone involved with Virgin Racing,” said Wirth. “The past year has been something of a rollercoaster ride as we first conceived the idea of entering Formula One 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.”

Speaking at the team launch Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, who sponsored world champions Brawn in 2009, said: “We have had a fantastic first year in Formula One 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.”