Virgin on Schedule and Confident of Stronger Season in 2011
Virgin Racing are on schedule with the design of their 2011 car and are in pole position to beat their closest rivals, Team Lotus and Hispania Racing, according to the team's designer Nick Wirth.
Despite Virgin Racing not giving an official launch date of the VR-02, the former Simtek boss is confident of the team staying on schedule.
"The car has passed all the FIA crash tests and the gearbox is on the dyno being tested," he confirmed. "Obviously at this time of the year in terms of car development and with our business plan, our level of investment is some way off the more established teams. We are somewhat in the hands of our suppliers - especially for those parts we don't build in-house. But we have a great set of external companies who are working tirelessly to ensure we stay on schedule, ready for the first test of the new car."
Of the new rules implemented for the 2011 season, it is widely acknowledged that the moveable wings and the unknown characteristics they bring have proved to be the greatest challenge. Having designed last years car using only CFD (Computer Fluid Dynamics), Wirth is positive that he and his team of designers have understood the impact such rules will have on car performance.
"The moveable wings have definitely been a very interesting challenge," the designer said. "They are an unproven quantity in terms of on-track testing and while I am confident we have done a good job with our car, I'm not saying we wont get some issues. I think its going to be more of a challenge for the race engineers and the drivers because the new regulations will have a stunning effect on the way the car goes round the track.
"The way it will be used will be so different from qualifying spec and race day spec. In free practice and qualifying, you can use it on every straight but in the races it's going to be restricted to usage on one or two straights so the effect on the gearing is going to be dramatic and interesting."
Last year saw the team struggle with reliability issues which hampered development and witnessed them confirming embarrassingly at the start of the year that the original fuel cell was incapable of holding the necessary amount of fuel required to finish a race.
Wirth is quick to refute suggestions of a repeat and is certain that Virgin will not be the only team granted permission by the FIA to re-fuel during a grand prix.
"Firstly, the aim of this year is to make sure the car is reliable - unlike last year, make sure we can get enough fuel in it - unlike last year and ensure we do all we can to help the drivers get the most out of the car as possible."
Despite failing to score a single point in their debut season, Wirth is optimistic that Virgin can improve sufficiently to beat their closest rivals Team Lotus, and possibly start to push the more established teams, especially in qualifying.
"Obviously our intention is to compete with and beat the teams that joined the sport with us last year," Wirth confirmed. "We want to get to the point where on pure performance; we can start to regularly beat Team Lotus and one of the teams that were competing before we joined, in qualifying at least. If we can start doing that then it means we could be regularly getting into Q2. Once we can do that, then with drivers of the ability we have - particularly in Timo (Glock), we can start to think about picking up our first world championship point but there is a job to do before we get to that point."