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Formula 1 News - July, 2009
Leaked email says Virgin buying Manor stake

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Jul.3 (GMM) Virgin has decided to buy a share of the new Manor formula one team, a leaked email has confirmed.

Sir Richard Branson's brand currently backs Brawn GP but the British billionaire suggested recently that the success of the team in 2009 had sent its 2010 sponsorship price too high.

We reported last week that Virgin may already have signed a deal to re-name and possible buy into the new 2010 entrant Manor, which involves FIA president Max Mosley's former Simtek colleague Nick Wirth.

Recent reports indicated that Mosley's FIA representative at grands prix and chief steward Alan Donnelly may also be involved, confirmed now in the pages of the Guardian newspaper.

An email authored by Donnelly indicates that the Virgin-Manor linkup was in place even before Manor was selected to join fellow new teams US F1 and Campos on the 2010 grid.

Donnelly wrote: "Virgin have signed to be investment partners with a shareholding of around 20 per cent."

Donnelly's questionable neutrality is also likely to return to the spotlight due to his arranging of meetings with Manor officials and a member of the Saudi royal family.

His email, attached to a draft Manor sponsorship and investment agreement, goes on: "I will be in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and look forward to seeing you at our planned meeting ... with representatives of Manor and Virgin.

"However if you would like a pre-meeting with me privately on Sunday then please let me know," Donnelly added.

Virgin and Manor did not comment, while Donnelly insists the email is not evidence of improper behaviour as he was already in Saudi Arabia on official FIA business.

Manor boss John Booth, meanwhile, told the English newspaper Dinnington Guardian that the team's commercial package will be confirmed in the next few months, followed by announcements about drivers in October.

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