Legal action threatens British Grand Prix

The future of the British Formula One Grand Prix was thrown into doubt today when legal proceedings were issued by the owners of Donington Park, the race's venue from 2010, against the circuit's operators.

Wheatcroft & Son Ltd, which issued the proceedings at Derby County Court, is seeking £2.47m in rent arrears and forfeiture of the circuit lease.

Donington Ventures was given a 150-year lease in January 2007 and in July 2008 secured a 10-year contract to host the British Grand Prix, currently run at Silverstone, from next year.

"Despite receiving numerous reassurances over a number of months they have consistently failed to meet their financial obligations under the terms of the lease," Kevin Wheatcroft, whose father Tom bought the circuit in the 1970s, said in a statement issued by the owners' lawyers.

"We have held off taking legal action for as long as possible but have been left with no choice but to commence proceedings to recover the outstanding rent and forfeit the lease."

Donington Ventures was not immediately available to comment.

In January Donington Park secured planning permission for a £100m revamp as it prepared to replace Silverstone as host.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said previously that if the circuit, near Derby in the Midlands, failed to get itself ready to host the race then it would not revert to Silverstone and Britain would be left without a grand prix.

Asked about the legal development and whether it left the race's future in the balance, Ecclestone told Reuters at the Bahrain Grand Prix: "I've no idea. But I don't worry about anything, to be honest.

"We can't have one (a race) in the streets or anything, can we?" he added when asked whether there was any possible alternative to Donington.

Ecclestone said he would have no interest in becoming the promoter himself.

"We've got a promoter, we've got good people there already," he said. "Maybe Tom's wrong and the other people are right, maybe they don't owe that money. I don't know."

The 78-year-old said it was sad that Britain was struggling to find an adequate venue while Bahrain and Abu Dhabi were offering state-of-the-art circuits.

"I've been saying it for a long time, we don't make the effort," said the Briton.

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