The 2014 Formula V World Championship runners-up Liverpool V-Prix Racing today unveiled their challenger for the upcoming season, which they hope will take the fight to Franklin Honda.
In a ceremony held in the Ellesmere Port factory, the team showed off their 2015 team before inviting the media and fans into the pitlane of the team test circuit.
In the press conference, team principal Arthur Lapierre said: 'For this new season, our car is the best we've ever had. It's agile, it's compliant, it's everything we've aimed for. Downton come in at a brilliant time, with the new V12 base unit, while our Mechanical Engineering department at Vauxhall Motors have tuned the unit to suit what we need from an engine, along with a brand new gearbox, the aim for which is to give both Karl and Adrien maximum driveability. The livery is what you've come to expect from us, with our partners Standard Chartered, Warrior and Garuda Indonesia once again well represented. However, you will notice the added presence of Castrol Edge to the car. As our new lubricants partner, they will be at the forefront of our development for this season and beyond, as we must pay particular attention to the cooling demands of such a powerful and potent engine. Quite possibly the biggest change this year for us is the move to Michelin tyres. Our links to the French company have been strong for a number of years now, with a great partnership in endurance racing in particular, so when they announced to us they were hoping to enter Formula Virtual, it was an obvious decision to align with them. They have worked with us to deliver bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport Total Performance tyres to us, and we will have the flexibility of choosing between a 'Hard' or 'Soft' compound for each weekend. Each work for an incredible distance, and both provide superb grip, but in different weather, different compounds will work better, so you will see us in free practice with both compounds, before making a final choice which to take into the race weekend itself. I don't know how well the other teams have been working with Michelin, but I am very sure that we have the strongest partnership on the grid, especially with our Paul Ricard factory being extremely close to the Michelin factory, allowing extensive testing on an up to date chassis. Anyway, I've taken up enough of your time, let's move on to the drivers!'
Adrien Simon, Karl Beckenbauer and Jamie Gerrard were all present, and each had plenty to say on their chances in 2015:
The Frenchman seemed pleased with how things were turning out: 'Of course, I was very close last season, especially during the first part of the championship, and I believe that 2015 is my year. I'm confident I can get the best out of the car, and the increased power to the rear wheels because of the V12 engine will mean it is fun to drive. The car feels amazing, and we have increased downforce, so I'm looking forward to a strong year,'
Karl was his usual bullish self, ready to fan the flames between himself and his team mates: 'How will I do this year? I'm going to be champion. We've got the best car on the grid, and I'm the best driver in the team. [laughing from Adrien and Jamie] You don't believe me guys? OK, I'll try again - I believe I'm the best driver in the team, so that means I must win otherwise I've failed. This time a couple of months ago I was out of the drive, I was going to be stuck in that simulator room over there. But I'm in the car now. Explain that.'
Jamie Gerrard was quick to respond: 'I can explain - I felt I needed another season of racecraft and experience in the lower championships, so I gave Arthur and Robert a ring, and they were in full agreement. And I didn't want to show you up Karl, you'd never drive again if they saw how good I was in your car!'
When asked the question of who would be constructors champion, all three were in full agreement - Adrien: 'We are. Whoever is the best driver in the team doesn't really matter.' Karl: 'We are aiming for the constructors title; that's what pays my wages at the end of the day. ' Jamie: 'These two will win us the constructors, then hand me the perfect car for 2016...'
Lapierre was quick to jump in at this point, perhaps mindful that the jovial mood between the drivers can change in an instant, though these three look like a close knit group.
Another group that look good for Liverpool are the Youth Academy. They've signed a deal for FIRST Motorsport to run Gerrard in FV2 alongside academy star Olen Inman. The Monegasque seemed to be ecstatic at the chance: 'Since the start of my career, I've dreamed of a place in a top team. It's only the beginning, but I have a clear aim, and that is to race with the FV team.' Also in FV2 is Allar Kangur, the Estonian looking to be a shrewd signing after a pole position and fifth place in Macau after a debut season in the EJGPC which included a win in Germany. The final member of the youth academy is Didier Arnaud, who has been full of praise for his mentor Adrien Simon: 'Adrien has looked after me from day one, and I have seen my performances increase every time I get in the car.' After a debut season starting in the EJGPC with Arthur Lapierre's junior team and ending in the Liverpool Junior Team run car in FV2, he's made a sideways move to the VWRS. Lapierre was asked whether he thought this was a risky move, taking Arnaud out of the pressure of official FV weekends to another, standalone series: 'No, I think the opposite. In FV2, you learn the tracks of the FV championship, but Didier has already done that now. In FV, people come to watch FV. FV2 is an added bonus. But for VWRS, people go to watch that championship only. They're the fans that drivers need to impress. They know their racing. The championship uses tracks not used in FV, so he's learning the track every week. If he wins in that, we know we have a great talent on our hands.'
After the team's extensive driver lineup had finished, team owner and technical director Robert Mathershaw finally arrived, coming through from the CAD suite. He was handed the microphone by Arthur Lapierre: 'Sorry I'm late, the technical meeting is always at this time on a Sunday when we aren't racing, and as much as I wanted to join you all, we've had some exciting ideas coming through and we couldn't wait to get them started. Anyway, you've seen the team, you've met the drivers, I guess all that's left is to see the car right?'
And with a clamour of excitement, the assembled media and fans were ushered through the Liverpool Centre of Technical Excellence to the preparation bay, then finally into the pitlane of the Ellesmere Port test circuit, where the RJM-003 sat beneath a cover in the garage, with all 6 Liverpool drivers ready to pull the cover off.
'Without further adieu, we proudly unveil the Liverpool-Downton RJM-003!'