Fitzpatrick steps in to rescue Manor Marussia Formula One team

Northern Irish businessman Stephen Fitzpatrick has confirmed an investment believed to be in the region of UK£30 million in what was the Marussia Formula One team, a move which will pave the way for it to compete in the 2015 world championship.

37-year old Fitzpatrick, founder of the Ovo Energy company, is investing on a private basis. Former Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King, who is often cited as a potential replacement for Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, has been named chairman of the newly-named Manor Marussia F1 Team on an interim basis, but is not thought to have invested.

Graeme Lowden and John Booth, the British management of the Russian-owned Marussia team since its debut, as Virgin Racing, in 2010, will run the reconstituted operation. Marussia fell into administration late last year, after missing the final three Grand Prix of the 2014 season. Its last appearance was at October's Russian Grand Prix, where the team ran one car, following the tragic accident involving lead driver Jules Bianchi a week earlier at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Lowden and Booth, however, continued efforts to revive the team, which finished ninth in last year's world championship, thanks to Bianchi's ninth place finish at the Monaco Grand Prix. That entitled the team, should it be salvaged, to around US$40 million worth of prize money from Formula One Management. The money is expected to be handed to the team later this month.

Midway through February, with Fitzpatrick's investment in place, formal agreement was reached with the company's many creditors, allowing the entity to come out of administration. The team was granted a place on the official entry list for the 2015 season last week by the FIA, world motorsport’s governing body.

The new operation is racing against time to be ready for the opening race of the new season in Australia, a week on Sunday, although it is confident of making the grid. Its 2014 cars are being hastily adjusted to meet the 2015 regulations at Manor's headquarters in Dinnington, near Sheffield, and are due to be flown to Australia this weekend. The team's old factory, in the UK town of Banbury, was acquired from administrators by the new Haas F1 Team, which is preparing for a 2016 debut.

A previous plan, to run 2014 cars this season, was rejected by Formula One's strategy group last month.

McLaren and Ferrari, two of the company's creditors, will support the Manor Marussia operation. McLaren will provide some technical support, while Ferrari has agreed to supply the team with 2014-specification power units.

Briton Will Stevens, who made his Grand Prix debut for the now-defunct Caterham team in Abu Dhabi last November, was confirmed last week as one of the team's drivers for 2015, with the second due to be announced shortly.

Fitzpatrick said: “We've all worked incredibly hard to get the car ready for Melbourne and the season ahead.

"Our fans have given the team amazing support for many years and we want to restore Manor to the very best of racing in the future. I have a lifelong passion for Formula One and can't wait for the season ahead, with Manor and the team.”

King, whose son Jordan is due to compete in GP2 this season, added: “It’s a real pleasure for me to be involved in Manor. I know from the years I spent at Sainsbury’s that with the right people, the right values, and sheer hard work, you can turn any business around. In Graeme and team principal John Booth we have all three and I’m fully confident that we can help Manor be competitive at the highest level of racing.”

Referring to the last six months, Lowden said: "It has been a challenging period for all of us but we’ve come through it and now we just want to go racing again."

source: SportPro

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