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Virgin to sponsor Brawn F1 team

The BBC F1 team talk to Sir Richard Branson

Branson happy to back Brawn

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group has become a sponsor of the Brawn GP team.

Branson, who was last month linked with buying the team, announced a "substantial sponsorship deal" at the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

"Virgin are trying to build the most respected brand in the world and an involvement with a great team will help that," Branson added.

Brawn GP chief executive Nick Fry said: "Virgin is paying to sponsor the car and it might evolve into more."

Fry's remark will be interpreted as a suggestion that Virgin may be considering taking a shareholding in the team in the future.

The Brawn team raced as Honda last season but secured their survival only at the beginning of this month following Honda's decision to quit F1 because of the global financial crisis.

Their car ran for the first time only in March but quickly emerged as the fastest in F1.

The team's English driver Jenson Button led team-mate Rubens Barrichello to a one-two in qualifying on Saturday and is the pre-race favourite for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

F1 MOLE

From Saturday, the Virgin logo was added to the previously unbranded white cars - and a new colour scheme will be unveiled at next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.

As part of the deal, the car will be renamed the Virgin BGP 001.

Explaining his decision to become involved in F1, Branson pointed to the recent drive to cut costs in the sport and a wish to introduce more environmentally friendly technologies.

"[F1 boss] Bernie Ecclestone has announced new entrants will be able to get into F1 at a much lower cost," he said.

"That will encourage a lot of new companies to get involved with the sport and make it much more exciting.

"Those financial costs are less than they were a year or two ago, but so it should be because the world is in a very different state compared to then.

"The sport will benefit from the costs coming down, right across the board, and with engineers using their skills rather than the teams using a cheque book in the future to produce great cars.

"As far as 'clean' fuel is concerned, we have invested quite a considerable sum of money in a company called Gevo (an American firm involved in next generation bio-fuels).

"One of the tasks they have had is to see if they can come up with a fuel for F1 that is clean, doesn't emit any carbon, and can perform as well as the dirty fuels used in cars to date.

"I'm delighted to say they have come up with such a fuel.

Jenson Button and Ross Brawn
Driver Button and team owner Brawn are looking ahead to a positive season

"Over the next few months we will be trying to talk to F1 and the various car companies to see if we can have it introduced as the one it uses so it can go from being a slightly polluting sport to a clean sport.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm looking forward to working within the sport to try to change it."

Branson is also trying to push bio-fuels in the airline industry, but the plan is controversial.

Environmentalists say bio-fuel cultivation is not sustainable.

They argue that it drives up food prices by turning over land that would have been used to produce food crops to those that can be turned into fuel for transport.

It has also been linked to the destruction of old-growth rainforests.

Brawn team principal Ross Brawn said: "An exciting debut race weekend for our team has become even more important as we have secured our second commercial agreement of the season.

"We look forward to working closely with the Virgin Group and sharing our on-track successes."

Branson added: "I have always said I would love for Virgin to be involved in F1 and I am thrilled that we will be entering this fantastic sport with people as skilled as Ross Brawn and the Brawn GP team.

"Over the years Virgin has had the great honour of partnering with technical geniuses and I truly believe that Ross Brawn is to F1 what Burt Rutan is to space travel with Virgin Galactic.

"We are confident that the Virgin BGP 001 car driven by Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello will go from strength to strength this season and we look forward to a great future working with the Brawn GP team."

Brawn have not announced the length of the deal, other than to state that they hope it is "for a long time".



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see also
Hamilton fears for title chances
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