March 4, 2015 / 5:23 PM / 2 years ago

Manor Marussia set for Australia under new owner

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Sainsbury's Chief Executive Justin King speaks at the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in central London, November 4, 2013.Olivia Harris

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King has been appointed interim chairman of the revived Manor Marussia Formula One team as they prepare for a remarkable comeback in Australia next week.

With OVO Energy founder Stephen Fitzpatrick coming to the rescue as principal investor, and effective owner, Marussia told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday that plans remained on course for them to have two cars racing in Melbourne.

Mandatory FIA crash tests have yet to be passed but are scheduled for this week, with the team confident the cars will make the freight deadline.

"We are ready to go racing," said team president and sporting director Graeme Lowdon, who will run Manor with principal John Booth just as they did the former Marussia outfit.

"The last few months have been a bit of a rollercoaster, to say the least," he added.

Fitzpatrick said King, seen by some as a possible successor to F1's 84-year-old commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, had declined an invitation to buy half the team but was involved in an advisory capacity.

King has been involved in motorsport for some time with his son Jordan competing in the GP2 feeder series this season.

Britain's Will Stevens will be one of the drivers, although his super licence has yet to be confirmed, with the second yet to be named.

Marussia went into administration and missed the last three races of 2014, but still finished ninth overall in the championship.

Fitzpatrick said he was funding the team personally, and not his company, and Manor would have a budget of around 60 million pounds ($91.55 million) with more than half of that coming from prize money.

"The idea is not that this will be the black hole of Fitzpatrick family finances," he added, making clear he was fully aware of the commercial realities of running a struggling Formula One team.

"We need to finish in the top 10 and we think we can achieve that," he smiled, a given since there are only 10 teams competing this year after Caterham's demise.

The car will be a 2014 chassis with safety upgrades to meet the new regulations initially, before a full 2015 one is produced.

"We haven't just taken a 2014 car and shoved a different nose on," said Lowdon. "It's a new car with a high degree of carry over and safety upgrades."

Editing by Ed Osmond

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