Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Fans angered by Kris Meeke omission

Mini crisis: Kris Meeke has been dumped by Mini for the WRC

The wrath of rally fans around the world has descended on the Mini team following their decision not to run Kris Meeke in next season’s World championship.

It was revealed just before Christmas that Mini would field one car for Spaniard Dani Sordo with a second auctioned to drivers who will pay for the privilege.

Ulsterman Meeke having two years left on his contract and is to remain with the team, carrying out test and development work.

But the decision has been met with fury from rally supporters from as far away as Australia and Mexico, Scandinavia and the US, with Prodrive, who build and run the cars, as well as Mini and BMW being lambasted for “betraying” the Dungannon driver.

More than 500 people signed up to a “Keep Kris Meeke in the WRC” Facebook page with 24 hours of it going on line and even Prodrive’s own site has been inundated with fans venting their anger.

Twitter, too, has carried harsh criticism with several leading rally commentators expressing their surprise and disappointment.

Much of the anger is directed at Mini and its parent company BMW who are being accused of not being fully behind the rally project even though the WRC Countryman was impressive in its six-round debut season and was voted Rally Car of the Year.

In an article headed “Bad for Meeke but BMW will suffer too”, Autocar’s Steve Cropley wrote: “While the promising Mini WRC team struggles to keep its head above water, BMW is spending an estimated 20 times more on a programme in the German DTM touring car series which, even if successful against Audi and Mercedes, will have zero impact on the brand’s value or strength outside German borders.

“The fact that a promising international competition effort looks like being allowed to wither in favour of DTM — along with BMW’s former F1 involvement and its international saloon racing programmes — shows just how parochial the company’s top management is inclined to be.”

It is no secret that the Mini project has been badly under-funded from the start and was heavily reliant on securing a major sponsor.

But all efforts to find one have failed, not least because of the on-going doubts over TV coverage next season following the collapse of the holding company behind rights holders North One Sport.

By dropping Meeke and selling his seat to anyone who can pay — around €220,000 (£184,000) per event — Prodrive are hoping to struggle on until proper funding can be found.

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