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Jordan F1 to choose new driver in reality TV show

LONDON - The reality TV craze is heading for the glamorous world of Formula 1 following an agreement by the Jordan F1 team to participate in an experiment that will reverberate around the sports marketing world.

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The team's owner, Eddie Jordan, has struck a deal that will see the winner of a 'Pop Idol'-style contest given the chance to drive for the team, probably in the 2007 F1 season.

The project will be keenly watched across the sport, which is struggling to find sustainable revenue sources as a replacement for tobacco sponsorship, soon to be banned under international law.

Jordan, whose principal sponsor is Benson & Hedges, believes that the earnings from voting, merchandising, betting, and gaming and TV rights could ultimately provide such a revenue stream. If it proves successful, it could lead to further cross-media branded content.

The as-yet-untitled series, which includes exclusive deals with UK broadcast, internet and mobile phone partners, will start next year.

It will take a fly-on-the-wall approach to life at Jordan to stimulate public enthusiasm for a sport where participation is traditionally thought to be out of reach to the average spectator. Like 'Pop Idol', a judging panel will whittle down contestants to a shortlist, who will be subjected to rigorous testing to assess their suitability for the glitzy but demanding world of F1.

The winner will earn a three-year training contract before making their Grand Prix debut.

The project has been conceived by SlaterHerd, a company founded by ex-media publisher Victoria Slater and Robin Herd, an ex-Formula One team owner and father of Bates UK managing director Chris Herd.

"This will be the biggest prize in TV history and will fuse the worlds of sport and entertainment," said Slater. She added that she intended to roll out the concept to the US and East Asia.

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