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BAT to announce at the Nurburgring

BRITISH AMERICAN TOBACCO will reveal its plans to enter Formula 1 racing at the Luxembourg Grand Prix at the end of September. We understand, however, that although an announcement date has been set the company has yet to finalize the details of the package. Negotiations are ongoing for BAT to buy a majority shareholding in one of the 11 existing F1 teams because it needs to be a signatory to the new Concorde Agreement - currently being negotiated - which will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the F1 teams over the next 10 years.

Although BAT has been unable to do a deal with either Tyrrell or Benetton, these choices should not yet be excluded as if the price is right a deal is likely to be struck. More likely, however, is a deal which will see BAT take over Minardi, via a deal involving Fondmetal Technologies.

BAT is expected to control 50% of the shares in the new team with Reynard Racing Cars having 25% and Craig Pollock - Jacques Villeneuve's manager - also being involved. Villeneuve himself is thought unlikely to become a shareholder until he joins the team.

A BAT spokesman, Michael Prideaux, has finally confirmed that the company is looking at Grand Prix racing but has played down the forthcoming announcement.

"It is early days yet," said Prideaux, "but I can confirm that one of the options is to buy or take a stake in a team. We still don't know what a team could be called, or what colors or logos would be allowed on the car."

In the F1 paddock it seems virtually certain that the branding will be either Lucky Strike or 555 - both of which are very big in the Asian markets.

It is worth noting that former F1 marketing men Richard Grundy (of Arrows) and John Postlethwaite (of Benetton) have recently established their own sponsorship agency and are rumored to be looking for money to replace Lucky Strike as the sponsor of the works Suzuki motorcycle racing teams.

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