Spyker F1 team to become Force India

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SAO PAULO, Oct 20 (Reuters) Spyker will be renamed as the Force India Formula One team next season, new owner Vijay Mallya said today.

The flamboyant Indian billionaire, who bought the team this month with Dutch businessman Michiel Mol, told Reuters at the Brazilian Grand Prix that he had asked the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) for approval.

''We have applied to the FIA for a change in name of the company and the team from Spyker to Force India,'' he said. ''I think that sums it all up as to why I am here.

''I believe that there will be a huge surge of support for this team once we present it as the Force India team.

''Having an Indian-owned Formula One team on the grid was something that was considered completely out of reach before...this reflects the new India and new ecomomic prosperity,'' he added.

If approved, the name change will be the third since 2005, when Silverstone-based Jordan was sold to Midland. Midland became Spyker last year after being taken over by the ailing Dutch luxury sportscar maker.

IMMEDIATE PRIORITY Mallya expected the management of the team, who have scored just one point this season, to stay the same and he was determined to keep highly rated German rookie driver Adrian Sutil as well.

The team logo will be in the colours of the Indian flag but an Indian driver was less of an immediate priority.

''It would be very complementary, however it is not essential,'' he said.

''We need a driver of some calibre to also improve the performance of the team. We can't have rookies only...for better performance I need a proven driver.

''It's true that a driver does do a lot to propel the momentum of the fan club, and there was certainly a spike in the interest levels when Narain Karthikeyan was driving in Formula One,'' added Mallya.

''But I think that to have an Indian team in the form of Force India on the grid will attract far more interest from the Indian fans.'' The tycoon, whose business interests include Kingfisher airlines and the world's third largest spirits maker in United Breweries Ltd, said he had already had plenty of interest from would-be Indian sponsors.

As a major client of Airbus, Mallya said he had asked the European aircraft maker to help with CFD aerodynamics work.

''I am very excited about the prospects going forward from 2008 and beyond,'' he said.

''No miracles in 2008, but a few positions further up the grid will be very welcome and a few points would be something to feel good about. It's certainly within reach.

''But from 2009 onwards I think the team will start to perform fairly strongly.'' India is due to host a grand prix for the first time in New Delhi from 2010.

Reuters BJR RN2155

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