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Branson backs new Formula One team

india Updated: Dec 15, 2009 17:46 IST
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New Formula One team Manor GP is to be rebranded as Virgin Racing following the announcement in London on Tuesday of a sponsorship agreement with Sir Richard Branson's business empire.

Branson is an enthusiastic follower of motor sport and scored a major publicity coup this year when he did a sponsorship deal with Brawn GP at the start of a year which ended with the team winning both the driver's and constructor's titles.

"Our first year in F1 was tremendous for the Virgin brand, so why not go in again with a new team from scratch," Branson told a press conference.

"If you look at the history of Virgin we've loved supporting technical breakthroughs, great engineers, and there's something like 120 engineers working away on this project."

Branson said Virgin Racing would operate on a budget of under 40 million pounds per year, making it one of the smallest spenders in Formula One.

The new team's principal, John Booth, said he hoped to be testing cars by the end of next month.

"I've been asking the question all night as to how we managed to arrive here. But the budget restrictions have allowed us to get involved, and at the moment I'm on cloud nine.

"We're the new kids on the block and we need to earn our place on the grid."

The new team also confirmed on Tuesday that their second driver for 2010 would be Lucas di Grassi, who steps up to partner Timo Glock after two seasons in GP2 and as test and reserve driver with Renault.

"Timo and I are here together to build a team," said di Grassi. "We're not working as separate individuals, but as a whole group, working as hard as we can to push the team forward."