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Federal Express flying away?

THE word on the street at Benetton headquarters in Enstone is that Benetton's big sponsor Federal Express may be ending its relationship with the team - because results in 1998 do not justify the money being asked for by the team for 1999. FedEx came into Formula 1 in the middle of 1997 and has since become involved with sponsorship of the CART series in the United States. We are told that the Nashville-based company sees motor racing as a perfect marketing profile for its services and wants to continue to use the sport to expand worldwide.

We have heard suggestions that the company will switch to a rival F1 team but we have also heard that it may be leaving F1 to take over from 555 as sponsor of the Prodrive Subaru team in the World Rally Championship. This would make some sense as David Richards was the boss of Benetton and can offer a much bigger car - and instant penetration into the Asian markets where rallying is as big as F1. One way or the other an announcement is expected shortly...

There is some good news for Benetton, however, with the announcement that the team will use Frenchman Laurent Redon as its test driver in 1999. Redon is the son of Josette Zannier, who co-founded the children's clothing and shoe companies Z and Kickers. Roger Zannier - Redon's uncle - was involved as a Benetton sponsor in the Flavio Briatore era.

Redon was French Formula 3 Champion in 1995 and raced Formula 3000 in 1996 and 1997 before becoming Minardi test driver last year.

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