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Page last updated at 06:18 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 07:18 UK

Legal battle threatens British GP

Donington Park
Donington Park was the host of the 1993 European Grand Prix

The future of the British Grand Prix at Donington is again in doubt after legal proceedings were issued against the company leasing the track.

Track owners Wheatcroft & Son Limited are seeking £2.47m in rent arrears from Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) as well as forfeiture of the lease.

DVLL, headed by chief executive officer Simon Gillett, secured the 150-year lease in 2007.

The circuit has a 10-year contract to host the race, starting in 2010.

The proceedings against DVLL were started at Derby County Court by lawyers at Browne Jacobson LLP, acting on behalf of the Wheatcrofts, Tom and Kevin.

"It is with great reluctance we have taken this decision," said Kevin Wheatcroft. "Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd owe us nearly £2.5m in rent dating back to September 2008.

"Despite receiving numerous reassurances over a number of months, they have consistently failed to meet their financial obligations under the terms of the lease.

Simon Wilko BEng

"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 forfeiture of the lease."

Championship leader Jenson Button admitted it would be a "disaster" if the British Grand Prix was taken off the Formula 1 calendar.

"As a British driver, and motor sport is very British, it would be very disappointing not to race in my home country," said Button.

"I don't live in the UK, I live in Monaco, but I'm very British and very patriotic, and it would be a disaster.

"It is a GP that is very hectic for a British driver because it's a very busy schedule.

"But in a way that's what I love about it. It's great driving in and seeing all the Union Jacks. It's a great feeling for a driver."

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone expressed sadness at the latest developments threatening the British GP.

If Donington can't put on the British Grand Prix then that's it. We will be leaving Britain

Bernie Ecclestone

"I've been saying it for a long time, we (the British) just don't make the effort," said Ecclestone.

The F1 supremo, who is close friends with Wheatcroft, also admitted that he knew nothing of the details of the impending legal case.

"I don't know what the situation is," added Ecclestone. "I don't know what the details are. Maybe Tom is wrong and the other people are right. Maybe they don't owe that money.

"But I'm not worried. I don't worry about anything to be honest with you.

"I've been in talks with Simon and we've been talking through the money situation.

"I'm trying to help him sort things out. What he really needs is an investor, that's the best hope of saving the race."

The 78-year-old is adamant that, should the Donington Grand Prix fall through, there would still be no going back to Silverstone, which hosts its last race race on 21 June.

"If Donington can't put on the British Grand Prix then that's it. We will be leaving Britain," he insisted.

"There is no question of us going back to Silverstone. They have had enough chances and have not delivered what they promised."

Donington won the rights to host the British Grand Prix after current hosts Silverstone stalled over signing a new deal and Gillett impressed Ecclestone with his plans for redeveloping the East Midlands venue.

In January this year the green light was given to begin work on a £100m redevelopment to bring the venue up to standard.

Donington circuit owner Simon Gillett

Report - Donington preparing for F1 return

However, despite work beginning immediately the track was not granted a safety certificate by the Motor Sports Association, leading to the cancelling of a number of events.

Gillett was also set to confirm plans at the end of March for his debenture scheme, again to raise much-needed funds, but they have been put on hold.

Gillett has claimed the circuit will be ready in time for 2010 but Ecclestone recently stated that if Donington does not meet required standards to host the event there will be no British Grand Prix from next year.

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see also
British GP will move to Donington
04 Jul 08 |  Formula 1
Donington to bridge F1 gap
13 Feb 09 |  Formula 1
New Donington is granted approval
09 Jan 09 |  Formula 1
Donington Park pit plan revealed
10 Jul 08 |  Leicestershire
Donington owner rejects sceptics
11 Dec 08 |  Formula 1
Team bosses back Donington switch
05 Jul 08 |  Formula 1
Donington 'to be ready for 2010'
06 Jul 08 |  Formula 1

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