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Motor racing-Lloyds Bank's LDC takes stake in Manor F1 team

LONDON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The private equity arm of Britain’s bailed-out Lloyds Banking Group has taken a stake in the new Manor GP Formula One team due to compete next year as Virgin Racing.

Lloyds TSB Development Capital (LDC) said in a statement on Monday that Manor represented an attractive investment opportunity.

“The investment is consistent with LDC’s core investment principles of seeking out unusually attractive market segments, and then backing British business, proven management teams and of continuing to invest throughout the business cycle,” it said.

Manor will be one of four new teams, with their entry listed by the governing FIA as Virgin Racing.

Virgin are due to unveil the new team in London on Tuesday. Manor have confirmed Germany’s Timo Glock as one driver with Brazilian Lucas di Grassi expected to be the other.

Alex Tai, a former senior director of Virgin Group, will be the chief executive with Manor founder John Booth the sporting director.

Etienne de Villiers, formerly a Walt Disney Studios executive and ex-chairman of the ATP World Tour and BBC Worldwide, will be team chairman.

The Financial Times said the LDC deal was believed to be worth around 10 million pounds ($16.23 million).

“Together with a unique commercial and sponsorship strategy that is expected to produce strong revenues, this talented team is well-placed to capitalise on the huge commercial opportunities presented by F1,” said LDC.

“LDC believes that an investment now in a F1 team is most attractive as the governing body, the FIA, has moved to ensure that an already very attractive industry will be made more viable in the future.”

Formula One teams, some of whom have been burning through as much as $300 million a year, have committed themselves to reducing the costs of competing to the levels of the early 1990s.

Lotus F1 boss Tony Fernandes last week put his 2010 budget at 55 million pounds.

Manor have a strong track record in junior series, with Formula One world champions Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen among their past drivers.

Former Simtek owner Nick Wirth’s WR Technology (WRT) is designing the car with a reliance on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) rather than conventional wind tunnel testing.

LDC said Manor would be creating more than 100 new jobs in Britain.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Nick Mulvenney;

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