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Virgin involved in Honda F1 talks

Richard Branson
Richard Branson has Honda Formula One team in his sights

Honda has said Richard Branson's Virgin Group is one of several potential buyers of its Formula One team.

The Japanese carmaker hopes a deal can be made in time for the start of the 2009 season in Australia on 29 March.

It is thought the team is up for sale for 1 - although any buyer would need to find a budget in the region of 40m to run the outfit for the new campaign.

"We are negotiating with several buyers and one of these parties is the Virgin Group," a Honda spokesman stated.

But the team are very short on time to put a deal together to enable them to compete this season.

They are planning to use Mercedes engines, but the German company has set a deadline by which the team have to prove they have the finances in place to pay for the power-plants.

BBC Sport understands that deadline expires in a matter of days.

606: DEBATE
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Honda pulled out of Formula One and put the team up for sale in December because of the effects of the global economic crisis.

Since then the leading contender was rumoured to be a planned management buyout led by the team's current chief executive Nick Fry, principal Ross Brawn and three other senior Honda Racing executives.

Honda are prepared to provide some funding to go towards a racing budget for 2009 as this would be cheaper than paying off the contracts of the team's 700 employees.

Branson has been involved with F1 before to a minor extent, his Virgin Mobile company sponsored the Jordan team in 2002.

Virgin Atlantic Japan have also been personal sponsors of Honda-backed Japanese driver Takuma Sato for the past four years.

But a source close to Branson told BBC Sport the entrepreneur had in the past been reluctant to get involved with F1, because he saw the sport as a "big black hole for money".

Should a buyout be put together, it would be a major boost for the career of English driver Jenson Button as well as the jobs of the team's 700 employees.

Button has no other options for a place in F1 this season.

Honda first competed in F1 in 1964 and has clocked up three Grand Prix wins as a full works team.

Its engines have also been behind dozens of victories by stars such as world champions Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

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see also
Global crisis hits Renault team
16 Feb 09 |  Formula One
Coulthard fears for Button future
10 Feb 09 |  Formula One
Honda 'optimistic' on race future
27 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Honda's Fry denies sale conflict
17 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Honda weigh up 'a dozen offers'
08 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Button hopeful over Honda future
08 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Billionaire Slim denies Honda bid
29 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Picking up the pieces at Honda
05 Dec 08 |  Formula One
Global crisis ends Honda F1 era
05 Dec 08 |  Formula One


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