Booth targets second qualifying stage

TEAM principal John Booth wants Virgin Racing to start making the second round of qualifying on a regular basis in 2011.

The pressure is on the Dinnington-based outfit, who finished bottom of the pile in their debut season last term, to improve results following the arrival of Marussia Motors. The Nascent Russian sportscar company, headed by ex-racer Nikolay Fomenko, acquired a significant shareholding in Virgin two months ago, ensuring the team's long-term future in Formula One.

It means Booth's team, born out of Manor Motorsport, will be known as Marussia Virgin Racing this season.

However, Marussia's financial support increases the pressure on Booth, who is believed to have been given two years to turn Virgin into a major force or face being axed.

Booth told The Star: "The first target is to get into Q2 on a consistent basis. From there, anything is possible."

He added: "I wasn't that disappointed we didn't get into Q2 more often last year. I think it would have been unrealistic to expect it all the time. It is not an easy task; we managed it when conditions favoured us but that didn't happen all the time."

Like fellow newcomers Team Lotus and Hispania, Virgin failed to secure a single point from their 19 races last year.

Nonetheless, technical director Nick Wirth says Virgin are progressing and confirmed work is on schedule on the VR-02 race cars.

"The car has passed all the FIA crash tests and the gearbox is being tested," he said. "In terms of car development and our business plan, our level of investment is some way off the more established teams. 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."

Meanwhile, Nico Hlkenberg's manager, Willi Weber, has claimed the 23-year-old rejected an approach from Virgin to fill the second driver seat. Ultimately, Belgian starlet Jerome d'Ambrosio was chosen to partner Timo Glock, replacing Lucas di Grassi.

Weber said: "We had an offer from Virgin and we were very happy with it but two German drivers in a team with Timo Glock is too risky."

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