Belfast Telegraph

Company’s financial worries may leave Meeke sidelined

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke’s place in the World rally championship BMW Mini team was under threat last night.

Unconfirmed reports suggested the team, run by Prodrive, the specialist British motorsport company, will start the 2012 season on next month’s Monte Carlo Rally by fielding a single car for Spain’s Dani Sordo.

Dungannon driver Meeke (pictured) could not be contacted but sources close to Prodrive indicated they would only run Sordo until funding issues had been resolved.

In the first comment since it was revealed the Mini team had missed Monday’s World championship registration deadline, Prodrive spokesman Ben Sayer said: “We are going to be in the championship next year and we will be in Monte Carlo.”

But he added: “We haven’t put in an entry yet because we are liaising with the FIA about the situation regarding the contract with the promoter for next year.

“It is very difficult with a big organisation like BMW to commit to a series where you are not sure where you stand.”

The problems surrounding the World championship centre on North One Sport, who are the promoters and holders of the television rights. They are part of Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI), a holding company owned by Russian Vladimir Antonov who was arrested in London last month on fraud and money laundering charges totalling 1.6 billion dollars.

Authorities in Lithuania and Latvia are seeking his extradition as part of the investigation into the asset-stripping of the Snoras Bank and his involvement with AirBaltic which has been taken over by the government.

He also owned English Portsmouth football club and had recently been trying to buy Swedish car manufacturer Saab which has now filed for bankruptcy.

North One Sport initially said they were unaffected by the problems of CSI but have now admitted they are seeking new investors to secure their future as WRC promoters. Meeke, the former IRC champion, joined the Mini team 12 months ago, signing a three-year contract.

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