Belfast Telegraph

Meeke left in limbo as Prodrive team loses Mini status

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke’s Prodrive team, the British specialist engineering company which built and developed the Mini Countryman WRC as a World rally championship contender, has been stripped of its role as official factory entrants.

Instead Mini will be represented by WRC Team Mini Portugal with its drivers Armindo Araujo and Paolo Nobre as manufacturers’ entries instead of Meeke and Spaniard Dani Sordo.

The cars, which have been built and supplied by Prodrive, will be run by the Motor Sport Italia team.

The split between Prodrive and Mini’s parent company BMW had been looming for weeks amid a disagreement over the team’s funding.

Ulster’s former Intercontinental Challenge champion Meeke had already lost his place as Prodrive opted to rotate paying drivers in the second seat opposite team leader Sordo in an effort to keep the project alive.

The latest move by Mini has only added more fog to an already confusion situation with the announcement stating that Prodrive will retain “responsibility for the construction and support of customer cars” and would “continue working with the BMW Group on the further development of the car.”

Meeke, who has a three-year contract with Prodrive, has steadfastly refused to comment since he learned just before Christmas that the team could not afford to run him in this season’s championship.

His manager Drew Wylie admitted that he was “no wiser than anyone else” over the latest developments.

“Quite honestly I don’t know what it all means,” he said. “We will be having a meeting within the next week or so with Prodrive chairman David Richards and things may become clearer then.”

The Prodrive team, known until now as the Works John Cooper Mini Team, is currently in Sweden preparing for this weekend’s second round of the World championship where Sordo and Patrick Sandell are scheduled to be the drivers.

From round three, the Rally of Portugal in March, their ‘manufacturer’ status will be taken over by Motor Sport Italia and the Portuguese team.

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