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Branson sees Brawn as clean fuel leaders

By Alan Baldwin
March 28, 2009 12:41 IST
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Brawn GP can lead a 'clean fuel' revolution in Formula One, British entrepreneur Richard Branson said on Saturday after his Virgin Group agreed a sponsorship deal with the sport's newest team.

The Virgin Atlantic owner, whose interests range from space travel to soft drinks, told a news conference at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix that a Virgin-backed company had developed a clean fuel that could change Formula One's dirty image.

"Over the next few months we will be trying to talk to Formula One and the various car companies and see if we can have this fuel introduced as the fuel that Formula One uses," he added.

"This sport can go from being a slightly polluting sport to a clean sport. I look forward to working within the sport to try and change it."

Branson later told reporters he was not looking to make money out of the fuel and would be happy to give it to other companies, such as Shell, already involved in the sport and to work with them.


Brawn GP have replaced Honda, who pulled out in December due to the global credit crunch, after a management buyout of the Japanese manufacturer's team by former principal and ex-Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn.

Branson had been seen as a potential buyer of the Honda team when it looked like it might fold.

No financial details were given of a deal that he said he signed four hours before getting on the plane to Australia and that comes at a time when carmakers are being battered by the financial crisis and some major sponsors are leaving.

Branson said he would not have considered Formula One without recent measures to reduce costs and make the sport affordable for new entrants while remaining highly innovative.

"In the past I got tempted but decided to try not to be because it was such an expensive sport. But I think the recession is bringing the cost of entry down to a more reasonable level," he said.

"I'm a bit of a cheapskate, when it comes to these things. I like to make everything pay its way," he added.

"The idea of writing out tens of millions of dollars for a sponsorship is just something that Virgin hasn't done in the past or needed to do .... but at the right value then it makes sense."

While Brawn Chief Executive Nick Fry said it was not a title sponsorship, Branson suggested it could become that over the next three or four weeks.

"We're hoping to have a proper marriage quite soon, we're a Virgin bride," he said.

"They might find someone comes in and offers them something even better before this bride marries up with them. But I think it's more likely than not that we'll get something sorted."

"Naming rights are certainly a possibility," he added.

"The team don't want to waste the name on something that's not promoting anything. Everybody knows it has a great engineer so it doesn't need to be called after an engineer."

The team, with Britain's Jenson Button and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, are highly-fancied to win in Melbourne after strong performances in testing. Branson said he hoped the "Four Bs" could turn in an A-grade performance.

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Alan Baldwin
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