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Virgin moves into Formula 1 sponsorship

  • Story Highlights
  • Virgin boss Richard Branson announces F1 sponsorship deal with Brawn GP
  • The sponsorship deal is Branson's first foray into the world of Formula One
  • Brawn driver Jenson Button has pole position for season-opener in Melbourne
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(CNN) -- Virgin has secured a partnership with the Brawn Grand Prix team in Formula One racing, Virgin chief Richard Branson announced Saturday.

Virgin's sponsorship mark's Richard Branson's first foray into Formula One racing.

Virgin's sponsorship mark's Richard Branson's first foray into Formula One racing.

The move, which had been the subject of speculation, marks Virgin's first foray into F1.

Branson made the announcement from Melbourne, where he is attending Saturday's Australian Grand Prix.

He announced the news just before the Brawn team secured the first two grid positions after qualifying, with Jenson Button in pole position.

"I have always said I would love to have a Virgin car on the circuit," Branson wrote on his blog. "I am thrilled to be involved with people as skilled as Ross Brawn and his team."

Branson added, "We are very confident that the Virgin Car driven by Jenson Button and Reubens Barrichello will go from strength to strength this season and look forward to a great future for the Brawn GP team."

Brawn Grand Prix is a newcomer to the F1 world. Run by former Ferrari technical guru Ross Brawn, the group was formed after Honda pulled out of Formula One because of the global economic downturn.

Brawn kept the same driver line-up of Brazil's Barrichello, the most experienced driver on the grid, and Button, who has had to play second fiddle following the emergence of world champion and fellow-Briton Lewis Hamilton.

Saturday's qualifying positions marked the first time a new team have started their first race from the front row since the 70s, according to Formula1.com.

Billionaire Branson is famous for his Virgin brand, which began with music shops and record label now includes airlines and interests in publishing, nightclubs, hotels, and a makeup line.

Flight testing is under way for a new Virgin venture, Virgin Galactic, which will launch space tourists into sub orbit. Branson says the service could be ready within two years.

Branson, who received a knighthood in 1999, is famous for his daredevil feats, including round-the-world balloon attempts and transatlantic boat races.

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