Branson fuels F1 frenzy as Virgin Racing rolls out

RICHARD BRANSON is ready to stamp his Midas touch on Formula One’s latest underdog and turn it into a winner.

Entrepreneur Branson yesterday unveiled the latest addition to his portfolio as Virgin Racing will feature in the sport from 2010.

The Virgin brand has simply put its name to Manor GP, one of four new teams due to enter F1 from next year.

However, the weight of the name has already reaped significant dividends as the team also unveiled 10 sponsors, with more to come ahead of the new season.

It means Virgin Racing is already fully funded for next season, admittedly operating on the smallest budget of the 13 teams at £40 million (€44 million).

Nevertheless, Branson is fully expecting Virgin Racing to blossom in time.

Branson, who last year played his part in Brawn GP’s success, has invested what he describes as “some money”, while he also has an equity in the team.

“What I discovered last year is there are a billion people who watch Formula One, and they are mostly fanatical,” said Branson.

“Formula One is a sexy beast, and we hope we are going to make it a little bit sexier. It’s fun, exciting, and those attributes apply to the Virgin brand.

“We love supporting an underdog, but we like that underdog to have some pretty good qualities.”

Branson, though, naturally enjoyed the connection with Brawn GP as the team went on to win the drivers’ title through Jenson Button, as well as the constructors’ championship.

It will be a very different story for Branson next season as he will be watching a car likely to be languishing at the back of the grid.

The 59-year-old is, however, not expecting miracles next season.

“I can you assure we’ve been used to struggling as we have built up businesses in the past,” added Branson.

“We like to be a winner in the end, although we’re certainly not expecting to get as lucky next year as we were this year.

“But I think we’ve every chance of doing respectably well.”

Branson and Virgin Racing are committed to F1 for the next three years at least, the current length of the new Concorde Agreement, with the hope of remaining involved for many more years.

Virgin confirmed Lucas di Grassi as team-mate to Timo Glock, ending four years in GP2 and after two seasons as Renault reserve driver.


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