Full speed ahead for award-winning driver and Virgin
ROOKIE Formula One outfit Virgin Racing will rev up for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix looking for its first ever point. The experience is also a new one for Nomad Digital owner Graeme Lowdon, who cut his teeth as part of a championship-winning team in Formula Renault and Formula 3, writes JOHN HILL.
IN A flurry of red and black, Virgin Racing’s lead driver Timo Glock hurled himself around the Bahrain track in qualifying, shaving home in a little under two minutes
The German’s time was only good enough to secure 19th place on the grid, and his car wasn’t one of the lucky few to complete the first race of the 2010 Formula 1 season. But on the sidelines, Newcastle-based entrepreneur Graeme Lowdon still remembered the experience fondly.
He said: “I was thinking about so much on the grid that I didn’t really take in the fact that we were there at the start of our first Formula 1 race. Fellow Geordie, John Morse, was there too – he helped the team get going from the early days so it was great that he was there to share the experience.
“We had always taken the view that getting to the grid in Bahrain should not be viewed as our World Cup but rather the start of our first race in our first championship year that we hope will be the start of many.
“I think this attitude has helped the team enormously.
“That said, the Formula 1 grid is the pinnacle of the sport so, on reflection, it was a really unique feeling to get there and obviously great to be at the front of the new teams.”
Mr Lowdon, 44, earns his money as boss of Nomad Digital, the Baltic Chambers-based data communications firm with offices in Dubai, Beijing, Alberta, Derby and London. Its success has seen him named this year’s Entrepreneurs’ Forum Entrepreneur of the Year.
But, for several years, he has been feeding his racing bug as non-executive commercial director at Manor Motorsport, the championship-winning Formula Renault and Formula 3 team which has groomed the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen.
As of January this year, he found himself as CEO of Virgin Racing, a team formed under the umbrella of Sir Richard Branson’s wide-reaching brand by Manor, technical director Nick Wirth and engine supplier Cosworth. It was a leap that seemed insurmountable until measures were introduced last year by Formula 1, limiting the expenditure of teams for 2010.
Controls now exist to haul back spending to early-1990s levels of around £40m a year, while restrictions are also placed on the amount of time a car can be tested in a wind tunnel and the amount of computing power.
Mr Lowdon said: “It was almost as if there was no point in looking at going there because the business model of F1 just didn’t present any opportunity at all for a company like Manor. It’s not as if we said ‘if we work really, really hard, we’ll get there’.
“That changed everything. It’s become a different competition. It was ‘spend as much as you want to be competitive’. Now we’ve got a model where the amount of resources you can employ is strictly limited so it’s a very different model and one which we think we can be good at.