The future of the British Grand Prix was thrown into deep uncertainty today (Thursday) when it emerged that the owners of the circuit were suing the leaseholders for £2.47m in outstanding rent arrears and taking legal action to have the lease forfeited.
Wheatcroft & Son, the owners of Donington Park, where the British Grand Prix is due to be held from 2010, yesterday started an action in Derby County Court.
In January 2007, Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVL) signed a 150-year lease on the circuit on which Ayrton Senna won the 1993 European Grand Prix, the only previous world championship Formula One event to be held on this circuit which hosted the epic Mercedes-versus-Auto Union battles in the 1930s.
Last summer, DVL chief executive Simon Gillett signed a long-term contract with Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One commercial rights holder, to stage the British Grand Prix on a long-term basis from 2010. Ecclestone has said that if the race does not take place at Donington then the British Grand Prix will be struck from the calendar in favour of a new event outside Europe.
Kevin Wheatcroft, Tom’s son, said yesterday, “It is with great reluctance that we have taken this decision. Donington Ventures Leisure has owed us nearly £2.5m in rent dating back to September 2008. Despite our receiving numerous assurances over a number of months, they have consistently failed to meet their financial obligations under the terms of the lease.
“We have held off taking legal action as long as possible but have been left with no choice but to commence proceedings to recover the outstanding rent and forfeit the lease.”