Monday, November 29, 1999

Virgin plan to be around for many seasons - Branson

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Virgin Racing are in Formula One for the long haul despite currently being among the slowest teams on track, billionaire owner Richard Branson said on Saturday."This Virgin will go all the way to the end of the season, and hopefully for many seasons yet," he told reporters at the Monaco Grand Prix when asked about fears that one of the new teams could drop out before the final race of 2010."If they continue the kind of progress we've made to date, we will be delighted and will continue to support it, and there's no reason why we shouldn't," added Branson."There will be technical problems, but even the teams who are spending 300 million on their cars have technical problems," he added."We went into this with our eyes open and we plan to stick with it as long as they get other sponsors on board, which they are managing to do."Branson's Virgin Group sponsored title-winners Brawn GP last season but decided to go it alone as one of three all-new teams this year. Their drivers are Brazilian Lucas di Grassi and Germany's Timo Glock.The Briton said he had no regrets about the decision, even if Virgin are struggling to get their cars to the chequered flag."It's actually just as fun being the new boy on the block as winning," he declared. "It's a different kind of experience. If we'd stuck with Brawn for another year we would be 50 million worse off, and they're not winning."So supporting and building a new team from scratch is very exciting."Lotus team boss Tony Fernandes, also an aviation entrepreneur like Branson, has challenged the extrovert Briton to wear an Air Asia stewardess uniform and serve his passengers if Virgin end the season behind his outfit.Neither team have scored any points so far but Virgin are behind Lotus on race placings."I'm still trying to avoid having to don an air stewardess outfit and serve on one of Tony Fernandes' planes and head off to Malaysia," said Branson."I haven't shaved my beard and moustache off since launching Virgin Brides many years ago, so hopefully we can avoid that spectacle."(Editing by Ken Ferris; To query or comment on this story email
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