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Fernandes accepts Branson's challenge

Lotus' mock-up of Richard Branson as an Air Asia stewardessLotus chief Tony Fernandes has accepted fellow airline entrepreneur Richard Branson's challenge that whoever's Formula 1 team finishes lowest next season should act as a stewardess on one of the winner's flights.

Fernandes - the founder of Air Asia - joked at last week's Motor Sport Business Forum that he really wanted his Lotus squad to beat air travel rival Branson's Virgin team in 2010, saying: "Number one we have to be ahead of Branson, otherwise I will retire and kill myself."

At yesterday's Virgin Racing launch, Branson raised the stakes further by suggesting a forfeit for the losing team boss.

"Having come from a music background, I suppose we might be able to choose the music for the funeral," Branson was quoted as saying by Reuters. "But I like Tony a lot so I hope he doesn't have to kill himself.

"At the same obviously we would like to beat him. Maybe we can think of another challenge. He has an airline, we have an airline and if we beat him he can come and work on our airline as a Virgin stewardess.

"We will make sure that the stewardess outfit is perfect. I suspect that he might ask us to reciprocate. I'll have to check how fetching his stewardess outfits are but I'd be game to do it while totally confident of winning."

Now Fernandes has accepted the challenge, with Lotus publishing a mock-up picture on its website featuring Branson in an Air Asia stewardess uniform.

"It's quite fitting, don't you think?" said Fernandes. "Our passengers will be delighted to be served by a Knight of the Realm.

"But, knowing Richard, the real challenge will be to prevent him from asking our guests 'coffee, tea or me?' That would be scary."

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