Name change but same ambition for Attleborough-based team
PUBLISHED: 11:08 06 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:08 06 March 2019
Virtuosi Racing has taken over the assets and entry of Russian Time in the 2019 FIA Formula Two Championship and completed a move to a purpose-built factory in Attleborough.
Team manager Andy Roche is highly confident the newly-named squad “can challenge for the teams’ title” having signed up European Formula 3 race-winner Guan Yu Zhou and Formula 2 regular Luca Ghiotto.
The team will operate under the name of UNI-Virtuosi with the same personnel which ran the Russian Time outfit for several years from the former Van Diemen factory at Snetterton.
In fact, most of the staff go back much further than that, having formed the backbone of the Griston-based Super Nova team of David Sears with a long list of championship success behind them in Formula 3000, Auto GP and GP2.
When Super Nova ceased, Roche and Paul Devlin approached businessman Declan Lohan for financial backing to form Virtuosi Racing, who ran in Auto GP before agreeing to run the Russian Time GP2 entry.
“We’ll certainly aim for the teams’ championship and we have a good chance at the drivers’ as well,” said Roche. “With Luca for sure, and Joe (Zhou), who will get stronger as the year progresses.
“We will be operating at the same level as we always have been with Russian Time, so there’s no excuses, we have to perform.
“With Luca we know what to expect with him and Joe was very impressive in the test at the end of last year. I think we have a good team and will have a good year.”
Ghiotto raced for the squad, then under the Russian Time banner, back in 2017 and has taken a best placing of fourth in the three years he has contested the GP2/F2 championship.
“I am rejoining this group of hard-working people just 12 months after our last race together in 2017,” said the 23-year-old Italian.
“Obviously our common target is to do much better than in 2017, when we ended fourth in the drivers’ championship.”
“It was like he had never been away,” added Roche after Ghiotto had tested for the team at the end of last season. “He will be an invaluable asset to the team.”
The local team’s second driver is Renault Formula 1 Junior driver Zhou, who will step up from contesting the FIA Formula 3 Championship having recorded two victories, three pole positions and one fastest lap during the 2018 season.
Zhou also tested for the squad at the end of last season.
“I’m extremely happy to be joining UNI-Virtuosi racing for next season,” said the Chinese driver. “The Abu Dhabi test was very positive and I am ready to have a good strong year with such a professional team.”
The local team enjoyed a fruitful outing at Jerez in the opening FIA Formula 2 pre-season test at the Spanish circuit with Ghiotto a leading contender on each of the three days.
Day one ended with Ghiotto placing fourth fastest.
“It’s always great to get back behind the wheel after three months of break,” admitted the Italian.
“I worked very well with the team’s technical staff as we followed a well-defined program to avoid any inconveniences during free practice on race weekends. It has been a targeted job, which paid off.”
Day two produced the second best time before ending the third day firmly inside the top 10.
Meanwhile, Zhou was at the front of the battle for fastest rookie, for drivers new to the series, and was only beaten for speed by Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael.
“Day three is over in Jerez,” tweeted the team. “Great testing, lots of laps with short and long runs, loads of data collected and now a well-deserved break. Back in action next week in Barcelona.”