What a whirlwind the last couple of days have been in regards to the MINI/Prodrive WRC team. While the world’s attention was focused on Ford and whether or not they would join again with M-Sport, a situation was developing with the Banbury based team that came to the public eye this past week.
Initial reporting had made it out to be a blunder of such when MINI failed to show up on the manufacturer entry list. After all, when the team was announced last season, it was said that a full program would come together in 2012. Hardly any reason to worry right? Wrong.
MINI and Prodrive have failed to secure a title sponsor for the team to this point. It has been also known since 2012 that MINI was running a limited budget for a full time effort. This would show that you could run a cost effective team and be competitive. Competitive they were in 2011 during their developmental year, but the cost of running a WRC team has caught up to them and MINI is not budging on the finances.
As a result of the financial crisis, Kris Meeke has been dropped off the starting roster for the Monte Carlo Rally. Instead of running two proper cars, the team will now sell the second seat on an event by event basis. It is understood that Meeke will remain with the team and continue test and development while Spanish teammate Dani Sordo will run the entire 2012 season. Sordo secured two podium finishes in 2011 and has a contract that runs through the end of 2012. Meeke has a contract through 2013 at the moment. All is not lost however, MINI expect their new plan will allow them to compete as a manufacturer for the title, but let’s be serious here. The only way Meeke will be in the car this year is if a title sponsor can be had or Meeke finds personal financing to compete where he should be.
I see a whole lot wrong with this situation. When I originally posted the team failing to register I seriously did not things were this serious. Perhaps some negotiating to be done, but I like many was under the impression that 2012 was a done year. To see Kris removed and his car put on the auction block is just ridiculous. Business is business however.
At the end of the day, this is a hit against the WRC going forward. While MINI will be a manufacturer and we will have three this year as advertised, they are not a threat for the title. Mainly spoiler against Ford and Citroen. The CSI meltdown has played its part I’m sure in MINI not committing too much money, however we also have to remember that the German firm were not set to put up a lot of cash to begin with. This is a complete 180 compared to what Volkswagen will be doing in 2013.
Another issue is coverage in the UK. Many of the WRC’s fanbase in the UK has lashed out at Prodrive over the lack luster effort. Coverage in the UK has been sub par at best of the WRC, and this does no favors. Many of the faithful fans were looking forward to Kris Meeke on stage and they have now been robbed of that chance until sponsorship is secured.
Pierre Campana is slated to drive the second machine at Monte Carlo to kick off the 2012 season.