British rally star Kris Meeke was sensationally dropped last night from the Mini WRC team for next month’s Monte Carlo Rally in a crisis within the Prodrive-run team over budget for the 2012 season.
According to unconfirmed reports, Mini’s other WRC driver, Spaniard Dani Sordo, will be retained for all 12 rallies in 2012 but Mini will auction its second car drive, on an event-by-event basis, to drivers who can bring their own finance to the team. Team sources insist there is a desire to continue Mini’s links with Meeke, who is believed to continue as a team member for testing and development purposes, but will only drive in competitive rallies if a new headline sponsor can be found.
The news is understood to have come as a complete shock to Northern Irishman Meeke and his co-driver, Paul Nagle, who appeared to confirm it on Twitter this morning. The pair are understood to have two more years to run on contracts they signed with Prodrive a year ago.
Prodrive boss David Richards was unavailable for comment when the news broke, but informed sources say the BMW-backed team has been unsuccessful in attracting major sponsorship for 2012, and has been starved of cash for some time.
BMW, meanwhile, continues to fund and expand a big-bucks German Touring Car programme for next year, aimed at beating Mercedes-Benz and Audi which both have full-scale DTM teams.