Interesting times at Marussia

Marussia is a funny company. It took over a controlling interest in the Virgin F1 team around a year ago, but since then there has been virtually no word about the progress of the Marussia road cars. In May the company announced that it had done a deal with Finland’s Valmet Automotive, headquartered in the remote town of Uusikaupunki, to manufacture the sports cars. Valmet is best known as a sub-contractor for Saab, Talbot, Opel and Renault, but more recently as the manufacturer of Porsche Boxster and Cayman models to help the Stuttgart firm cope with the demand. It is also producing the Fisker Karma and will soon begin work on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

In recent days there have been spy shots of the Marussia B2 being tested, so it seems the programme is still going.

The company President Nikolai Fomenko, who used to be a rock and roll singer of some repute (in Russia) and then tried his hand at being a TV star, told the Russian media a few days ago that Marussia probably did not have the money to continue in F1 in the long term, but hoped that the team would survive until the planned Russian GP in Sochi in 2014.

Someone must have smacked him around the head for that one because he is now saying that all is well. He has also told Russian reporters that Max Chilton has been signed to drive the team’s second car, alongside Timo Glock thanks to British sponsors that have agreed to pay $15 million to put him into the car. It will be interesting to see what names appear on the F1 car next year. There has been a great deal of speculation that one of these will be the US insurance giant Aon, of which Max’s father Grahame is a vice-chairman. This is possible as Aon has sponsored a lot of Chilton racing activity, not least Max’s GP2 campaigns and his brother Tom’s adventures in the British Touring Car Championship. There has also been talk of Chilton buying into the team, as his modus operandi in the past has been to buy teams that run his offspring. This has been done through the Chilton Family’s Capsicum Private Office LLP, that “represents Grahame Chilton and his family interests in a multiplicity of asset classes”. One of the subsidiaries is the Capsicum Motorsport Holdings Ltd company, which acquired Carlin back in 2009 and later added the touring car team Arena Motorsport as well. Chilton also owns a racing simulation company, which is believed to be working in computer gaming, and is believed to have had dealings with Marussia’s primary investor Andrey Cheglakov, who is a big player in the Russian computer gaming markets.

It is interesting to note that a company called Capsicum Grand Prix Limited has just been set up although the registered address is different to other Capsicum companies. The company documents reveal that this was all done by a service company and so it would be quite a coincidence if the Chiltons were not involved in the firm.

31 thoughts on “Interesting times at Marussia

  1. Thanks for the report Joe, I didn’t realise the Chilton Family actually owned Carlin and Arena. Do you know, are the companies profit making? Are there any links to be drawn from Mclaren’s Aon backing and the Marussia Mclaren deal?

    Max Chiltion gave an interview in Abu Dhabi in which he stated his UK backing for a 2013 seat did not come from family money. i.e. not Aon. (the interview was for Sky)

    I hope there is some truth behind the comments, new backers would be good for the sport in general.

    Is there anything to be drawn from Arena representing a Ford works entry in the WTCC? If the Chilton Family have Ford backing the WTCC could they convince Ford to badge the Cosworth engine in 2013 and support Cosworth in devleoping a 2014 spec engine?

          1. Good question, but as you wrote above “There has been a great deal of speculation that one of these will be the US insurance giant Aon” – so you tell us…

          2. I thought you just did:

            “…sponsors …have agreed to pay $15 million to put him into the car…. There has been a great deal of speculation that one of these will be…Aon…This is possible…”

  2. I have no qualms about F1 being associated with speed, danger, drivers getting killed, obscene wealth, sexism, pollution and corruption. But kids who get to be an F1 driver just because their dads are well off? That’s where I cross the line. It’s OK in the lower formula, but this is supposed to be the pinnacle and the drivers should get there by talent and clout. Otherwise it will just become an irrelevant playground for the rich.

    1. The drivers who get to F1 are all very good drivers. Money is not enough. The fact is that at the moment you need both money and talent to get to F1 as a pay-driver. The great talent always finds money: a la Alonso, Hamilton, Button etc

    2. “Otherwise it will just become an irrelevant playground for the rich.”
      What do you think it was when it started?

    3. CNSZU: So how is this different then back before the modern era of ‘Grand Prix’s’ or post 1958 for that matter? There were all sorts of F1 drivers through the 50’s, 60’s 70’s etc. that were considered ‘Play Boys’ or ‘Gentlemen Racers’ whom used ‘family money’ to race. I don’t see how or where your distaste of the rich being put into race cars comes from – of course other then personal jealousy… Without these drivers we would have averaged 10 cars (if that) on the grids through out the ages.

      1. Because in this day and age, F1 is supposed to be a PROFESSIONAL sport. We are not going back to the stone age where the good old boys ruled. We have huge, multinational companies involved as sponsors and partners, worldwide TV coverage for 100’s of millions watching. And yet, despite the high stakes, pampered kids are sneaking through the back door to have a bit of fun. They’re a waste of space and are making a joke out of the championship.

        1. “Because in this day and age, F1 is supposed to be a PROFESSIONAL sport.”

          What day in age? You mean the great crap world wide economy age? Are you making an allegation here that F1 isn’t professional? If so – please highlight the quality control issues for us all because it’s a puzzling statement considering F1’s gaining world wide appeal.

          “We are not going back to the stone age where the good old boys ruled.”

          Interesting comment. I would agree if you had mentioned several former FIA Presidents, or even team owners of the past – hell even Bernie. But I dispute your assessment here when our conversation concerns DRIVERS. Whom are your referring to as a, ‘good old boy’? Moss? Fangio? Stuck? JYS? Clark? I’m at a loss here to understand who you are blaming for this mysterious issue.

          “We have huge, multinational companies involved as sponsors and partners, worldwide TV coverage for 100′s of millions watching.”

          I think we all know this. No need to point out how SUCCESSFUL Formula One has become despite your assertions.

          “And yet, despite the high stakes, pampered kids are sneaking through the back door to have a bit of fun.”

          Pampered? Are we taking about the Paddock Club members? 🙂 I could agree if so. If your talking about certain drivers – please name them as this generalization of yours is silly. Do you actually know any F1 drivers personally? Know them well enough to be an authority on this subject? I can’t say myself as I only know one young driver who almost made it into F1 (had a test role) and he’s certainly not pampered – nice kid actually. But I bow to your authority on this subject matter as you must have intimate inside knowledge. As far as sneaking in the back door?? Hmmm… (scratching head) Can you please point out where that door is as I believe this information would be quite valuable on the open market. I’ll cut you in on some of the sales action… #CSNZU_Backdoor.fun.in.F1

          They’re a waste of space and are making a joke out of the championship.

  3. I have to admit I dont really know father Chilton and his background, but this interesting story by Joe makes me wonder whether Aon’s shareholders have any say in the marketing spending by father Chilton on his boys hobbies. I get a sick feeling of it.

    1. +1

      Capsicum Motorsport, has made for a very interesting Lunch break research project 🙂 thanks Joe!

      I hoped / presumed that with a Russian owner there would be Russian Billions, Chelsea style, but the funds don’t seem to be forthcoming for Marussia. Maybe Chily would do a better job! Although I wonder what his commitment to motorsport would be like if his kids were not involved.

      Reading some of the press releases from Aon, I have no doubt that the Chilton family will have more than enough backing from other corporations. As ever business is not about what you know, but who you know. (Graeme still sits as an executive board member)

      Joe, off topic, you mentioned 3 new US sponsors for Enstone F1, Coca-Cola (Burn) has been announced, Honeywell is looking likely, can you give any clues as to the 3rd? The livery could look very busy next year, despite the hopefully reduced Lotus and Genni branding.

  4. A minor point, but Uusikaupunki is not remote. It’s just up the coast from Turku in southern Finland. There’s an interesting SAAB museum in the Valmet car park……

  5. Stumbled upon this the other day: http://www.letsrace.co.uk/

    “Lets Race is the simulated motor racing arm of the Capsicum Motorsport group”

    Looks like an interesting alternative to a track day, although you really don’t seem to get much time in the simulator.

  6. I work for one of Aon Benfield’s two major competitors, and I’m amazed that they get away with this. I can’t believe that this hasn’t been questioned internally within the company.

    By all means sponsor a team if there is a benefit for the company from it – but funding family members to go motor racing? They’ve been doing it in the British Touring Cars in the past too with Tom Chilton.

    The insurance/reinsurance industry is so tightly regulated now, that even if I buy somebody lunch during a business meeting, I have to record it so that the FSA can monitor it for conflicts of interest.

    Plus the investors and stock markets watch the company I work for like a hawk for our expense management.

    It just feels like Aon are sending the vice-chairman’s sons off on a bit of a jolly.

      1. However, the problem is – certainly in the company I work for – very few people would ever be brave enough to question the decisions of somebody at that level. Frankly we are all sheep, who are happy to have a job.

        When dealing with the FSA – you can happily wander along for years, and then all of a sudden, they will spot something, lock in on it – and suddenly you are in serious trouble.

        Maybe/perhaps he is funding it himself, and putting Aon signage on the cars out of loyalty to his company – that’s the only plausible justification I can think of.

        Otherwise, there are far better racing drivers out there that could do more with the Aon money than the Vice Chairman’s sons.

        I stand by my view that it looks dodgy.

  7. Interesting developments, I wonder – if they bought into the team, whether it would be renamed Carlin? That would be ironic given that Manor beat Carlin to a place on the 2010 grid, but it would be nice to see a British name on the grid, and one that has come up through the motorsport ranks, after having Virgin and Marussia instead of Manor.

  8. Capsicum / Carlin buying into Manor / Virgin would make sense. If you look at Lets Go Racing, they would really benefit from the technologies developed by Wirth Research. I am sure I read that Maurussia F1 acquired Wirth when they took over the team and the HQ.
    In addition to that, the corporate partners of Lets Go Racing are Lenovo and ExxonMobile. Both have links with McLaren.

    In addition to that there remains the technology sharing and Wind Tunnel use of McLaren and the ‘joint sponsor’ between Carlin and McLaren Aon.

    I wonder if this is a opportunity by Woking to launch a Quasi-B Team and a squad in the lower formulae at the same time, spreading the risk from Mclaren needing to be financially involved.

    Certainly Red Bull have benefited from this in recent years?

  9. Pretty crazy reading an article about Marussia in 2015 where the company president stated they “Probably did not have the money to continue in F1 in the long term, but hoped that the team would survive until the planned Russian GP in Sochi in 2014”.

    You have to say the man followed his plan….

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