LONDON (Reuters) - Stephen Fitzpatrick emerged as the new owner of the stricken Marussia Formula One team on Wednesday with the assurance that he was going in with eyes wide open and no illusions about the task ahead.
The founder of independent energy supplier Ovo told reporters even he had thought the team doomed when he first expressed interest last November but felt it was too good a story to end.
Marussia missed the final three races of last year after going into administration in October, then ceasing trading with 200 staff made redundant.
Despite that, they ended the season ninth and came out of administration only last Friday as Manor Marussia F1.
“Until November of last year I was...on the wrong side of the pit lane fence,” said Fitzpatrick, outlining his credentials as a Formula One fan.
“I went to the Singapore Grand Prix with a friend of mine and we were on the track at the end of the race and looking at all the fans lined up on the pitlane and looking at all the goings on in the garages.
“And I said to him ‘we need to figure out a way to get over there.’ It’s fun watching the race but as any entrepreneur will tell you, standing by on the outside and looking in and not being involved is very frustrating.”
Fitzpatrick said Marussia’s situation had looked “fascinating but almost hopeless” and he had felt it was just too late to revive them.
“But I couldn’t give up on it...it seemed like too good a story to let end there,” said the Briton, who has yet to visit the factory or see the cars and will not be going to next week’s season-opening Australian race either.
He said he had subsequently been approached by individuals and consortiums interested in buying into the team after walking away last year and was open to that.
Marussia now intend to have two cars on the grid in Melbourne and sporting director Graeme Lowdon said that in itself was a triumph.
“Even just being there is actually an enormous result, a really enormous result,” he told Reuters, adding that he had thought the team was gone not just several times but several times a day in the last few months.
“It’s been an unbelievable rollercoaster but its worth fighting for and I’m surrounded by people who equally think it’s worth fighting for.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis