It’s a first for Virgin but reality soon bites back

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FOR more than half of the second session of free practice at the British Grand Prix, Marussia Virgin Racing were in dreamland.

Lead driver Timo Glock topped the timesheets. Yes, Timo Glock.

Even Glock saw the funny side of it. He had a broad smile on his face when the TV cameras dropped into Virgin’s garage. It was a brief moment in the spotlight for the perennial backmarkers and Glock savoured every second it.

Thousands of frustrated spectators fled for shelter as the rain lashed down on the modified circuit, which was the scene of the first Formula One World Championship of the modern era in 1950. Away disappeared the Union Jack flags, up went the umbrellas and out came the water proofs.

But after the heavy showers, normal service duly resumed. Glock and Virgin slid down the leaderboard. It was Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who set the pace in the afternoon session in a time of 1.49:967. Ultimately, Glock outpaced just the two Hispania’s while his team-mate Jerome d’Ambrosio ended up in 19th position.

The Virgin duo also struggled in the morning session, with Glock and d’Ambrosio coming in 21st and 23rd respectively.

On the upside, Glock completed 17 laps while d’Ambrosio lapped more than any other driver with 26.

To make an impact in the race tomorrow, the Dinnington outfit need the weather gods to shine on them. With their MRV-02 model short on speed, it is Virgin’s sole hope of breaking into the top 10 and scoring their first ever point. Their wish may not be granted though. It is expected to rain in qualifying today but sunny intervals are forecast for Sunday.

Team principal John Booth insists Virgin are prepared for all eventualities.

“You have to think more on your feet in wet conditions,” said Booth. “We are going into the race with quite a clear strategy.”

Asked what positives Virgin could take from the two punctuated practice sessions, Booth said: “We learned about the track and the tyres. The kerbs have been resurfaced on turn one so the track is not bumpy like it was last year.”

Virgin agreed a long-term technical partnership with McLaren, one of the sport’s heavyweights, this week. The tie-up means Virgin will have access to their facilities, knowledge and capabilities.

Booth said: “We needed to take decisive steps to move forward. We want to tap into their years of experience and knowledge to build on our car for next year.”

The agreement means Virgin have access to the McLaren wind tunnel as they bid to make the car faster and more competitive. The improvement can’t come quick enough.