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Yorkshire Plans to Revel in Glamour of F1

posted 24 Mar 2010, 07:11 by RiDO Rotherham
NEW decade, new sport for Yorkshire people to get excited about.

Who would have thought 12 months ago that the glitz and glamour of Formula 1 would be catching the imagination of the county's sports fans hooked on the likes of Sheffield United and Leeds Rhinos, Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the St Leger?

But 2010 dawns with a new team to cheer on, a new name to get behind and a new sport to get immersed in.

Formula 1 has always held a special place in the British sporting psyche thanks to the gung-ho playboy lifestyle of Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss, James Hunt and Nigel Mansell.

They lived life on the edge; speeding around corners at full throttle with Niki Lauda, going wheel-to-wheel with Juan Manuel Fangio and trading body paint at 180mph with Ayrton Senna.

We watched from afar in Yorkshire, following southern companies like McLaren and Williams and making the annual pilgrimage to Silverstone to watch our boys do battle with Ferrari's prancing horse.

Not since Mexborough's Mike Hawthorn won the world title in 1958 has Yorkshire had such a vested interest in the billionaire's playground that is the Formula 1 paddock.

That was until Manor Motorsport, housed on a business park in Dinnington in Rotherham, drove into view in June and announced they would be rubbing shoulders with Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes.

From humble beginnings in John Booth's garage in 1990, through 171 race wins and 19 championship titles from Formula Ford to the F3 Euroseries to the most famous grid in motorsport, the rise has been meteoric and impressive.

And now Formula 1 fans in Yorkshire have someone to get behind, and thanks to the financial clout of billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson, the rebranded Virgin Racing is a team with genuine aspirations of establishing themselves on the top step of the motorsport podium in the coming years.

"It gives us tremendous credibility out there," said Booth of Virgin's backing.

"It was a suitable vehicle to use Manor for the entry, but it was always possibly the plan for that to change.

"To have somebody like Sir Richard and Virgin on board is a dream come true for us. When you watch Sir Richard in interviews he's a global media figure and one of the most recognised faces on the planet.

"Sponsors want to be with him, and he just brings a real buzz to the whole operation."

2010 may prove to be a tough acclimatisation for a team with the smallest budget on the grid but Virgin Racing will carry Manor's Yorkshire heritage to all corners of the globe in Formula 1's 19-stop worldwide car chase.

The team may have a second base at technical director Nick Wirth's Oxfordshire plant, where the cars are designed, but its origins are in Dinnington where the Manor operation is expanding to accomodate the increased infrastructure of a Formula 1 team. An expanded workforce is working around the clock to get the Virgin Racing cars ready for the proposed first testing session at Silverstone in early February.

And having a Formula 1 team within your own borders has helped raise the profile of Yorkshire sport and is being welcomed with open arms by business and tourism industries in the white rose county.

"Formula 1 is a huge sport and that plays a big part in raising the profile of Yorkshire," said Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.

"It helps to get people viewing Yorkshire not as the old image of mills and industry, but as a new, urban, chique place to visit."

For those who have kept a close eye on Manor's progress through the years, their ascension to the Formula 1 grid is a triumph to behold.

And for one of the most recognisable businessmen in the world in Branson to give a Yorkshire enterprise his full backing, plus banking giant Lloyds to invest in the team, suggests big things are to come for Manor and for the future of Formula 1 in the county.

"It's fantastic for the people behind Manor and justifies their belief that they have always had something special," said Clark Herron of the Rotherham Investment and Development Office.

"Richard Branson is not going to throw money into something he did not think would be successful. It raises the profile of Rotherham and South Yorkshire and a lot of people are really proud to have one of the two Virgin operations here on our doorstep.

"It generates a feel-good factor and a lot of people will become Formula 1 fans if only to watch the progress of Virgin Racing."

The two men driving the cars for Virgin and ultimately determining how successful the team is, may not be household names in Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi, but are drivers of genuine potential.

Glock leads the team following his two years and three podium-finishes with Toyota. And while he accepts success may not be as instant for a team with the smallest budget on the grid, the challenge of helping a team build into Formula 1 proved hard to resist for the German.

"The first time I went to Virgin Racing, they told me they wanted me and no-one else and that was a good feeling," said the 27-year-old. "Everything is a bit different to a normal F1 team, but it's great to have a different way of approaching the sport.

"John Booth never had the possibility in F3 or other categories to have a huge budget and simply throw money at things; he just had to do the best with what he had. Everyone knows we have to work hard, but you also need to keep the fun element – that's important."

Yorkshire grit has arrived in Formula 1.

Source: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/formula-1/Yorkshire-prepares-to-revel-in.5968818.jp

Westby, Nick. (2010). Yorkshire Prepares to revel in glamour of Formula 1, [Online]. Available: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/formula-1/Yorkshire-prepares-to-revel-in.5968818.jp
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