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Potential buyers for Honda

TOKYO, February 18 – Honda said Wednesday it was talking to several potential buyers for its Formula One team, including British tycoon Richard Branson's Virgin Group.

The Japanese carmaker, which announced its shock withdrawal from F1 in December because of the financial crisis, said it hoped to reach a deal in time for the team to be on the grid at the start of next season on March 29.

"We are negotiating with several potential buyers for the racing team, among which isRENAULT_CAR the Virgin Group," a Honda spokesman said, declining to name the other interested parties.

Honda’s exit from Formula One raised fresh fears over the future of the multi-million-dollar sport, which is struggling to keep afloat in the current credit crunch.

"We are doggedly pursuing negotiations in time for the start of the F1 season in March," said another Honda official who declined to be named.

"We are intensely discussing options including finding a buyer," he said, adding that the team may still have to be disbanded if the negotiations fail.

Honda Racing chief executive Nick Fry is also reported to be leading a management buyout bid for the British-based team.

Honda first competed in F1 in 1964 and has clocked up three Grand Prix wins as a full works team. Its engines have also been behind dozens of victories by stars such as world champions Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

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