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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 14:24 GMT
Whisky brand to sponsor McLaren
The new Johnnie Walker livery will not be raced until August
The new-look McLarens will not be raced until August
McLaren have secured a multi-million pound sponsorship deal with drinks giant Diageo, which will use the team to promote Johnnie Walker whisky.

The team will carry the branding from this season's inaugural Turkish Grand Prix on 21 August.

It will replace West cigarettes on the cars' livery, although Johnnie Walker will not be part of the team's title.

"It's a great time for Johnnie Walker to join us and McLaren welcomes them," said team chief Ron Dennis.

The deal will cost Diageo up to 15m a year, with an additional 2m spent every year on "responsible drinking programmes in Grand Prix markets", the company said on Tuesday.

West parent company Imperial Tobacco is pulling out of F1 in the face of the UK's new tobacco advertising law.

The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act comes into force on 31 July and makes anyone responsible for the promotion of a tobacco brand in the UK liable to prosecution.

In theory, that means no pictures - either electronic or print - of an F1 car with tobacco branding can be used in the UK.

But there is some confusion within F1 as to whether the government will enforce the act on four teams - Ferrari, BAR, Renault and Jordan - that still carry cigarette advertising.

"There is ambiguity in the legislation - some teams are planning to carry on with branding after 31 July," Dennis said.

"They believe the legislation is not aimed at F1."

He added that the teams had asked the government for clarification of the act, but that none had been forthcoming.

Responsible drinking

The Diageo deal will end decades of cigarette sponsorship for McLaren, who have been funded by tobacco money since 1977.

German brand West became title sponsors in 1997 after McLaren's 20-year association with Marlboro came to an end.

Dennis said Diageo had spent a long time considering the decision to advertise a strong spirit on an F1 car before going ahead, because of the potential association with drink-driving.

But he said Diageo planned to use their relationship with McLaren to promote responsible drinking.

"Responsibility is as critical on the highway as it is on the racetrack," added Dennis.

"I know we will work together on ways to inspire people to take that responsibility when they want to enjoy."

Certain breweries have been involved in motorsport sponsorship, but not many manufacturers of strong spirits.

In 1974, German herbal spirit Jaegermeister backed March, and Martini sponsored Brabham and other teams in the 1970s.

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