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.