We were pretty surprised to find out just a few days ago that Mini's new rally team had, for some reason, failed to sign up for next year's World Rally Championship. "Inexplicable" is what we called it at the time, but the latest reports coming out of the UK where the team is based could serve to cast some light on the situation.

Not only has the outfit – run by the rally gurus at Prodrive (who have, in the past, run Subaru's rally team, as well as Aston Martin and Ferrari works efforts at Le Mans) – missed the filing deadline, but they'll also reportedly let their best driver go. The reason? Funding, apparently. Although the team supposedly benefits from factory backing, a lack of sponsorship has reportedly left the team strapped for cash.

As a result, Northern Irish driver Kris Meeke – who was called up to the WRC team after claiming the 2009 title in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge – and his co-pilot have reportedly been released from their three-year contract after only one year. Meeke's seat will reportedly be auctioned off to the highest bidder – that is, whoever comes with sponsorship dollars, pounds or euros already lined up. Former Citroën WRC driver Dani Sordo, however, will reportedly carry on with the team, assuming it can secure its entry for the upcoming season.

How a factory-backed team like Mini's could find itself without enough funding has us scratching our heads, but our compatriots over at Autocar point to parent-company BMW's costly new entry into DTM next season as a potential answer.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      "but they'll also reportedly let their best driver go." "a lack of sponsorship has reportedly left the team strapped for cash." "his co-pilot have reportedly been released from their three-year contract" "Meeke's seat will reportedly be auctioned" "will reportedly carry on with the team" Autoblog may want to revist its editing guidelines... reportedly.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Before I used to think that Mario Theissen was the culprit behind BMW's madness, but now it seems it's BMW's culture to dump and run. They didn't do anything interesting in F1 neither with Williams or Sauber, and now they've already failed with WRC before even running a full season.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Jes' yer new race paradigm: "Buy A Seat". If it works in F1, INDY and Nack'sCar .. why not? The new talent is in fund raising, not in seat belts. The germans probably looked forward and decided not to waste money on a brand the market will likely ignore in 5yrs.. The Brazilians and Chinese probably are not interested 60's British kitsch .. the Indians - certainly not! (I wonder how many germans buy a Brit/German car?) Beta BMW sells it to the Chinese.... Jim
      • 3 Years Ago
      No disrespect to Meeke, but to call him Mini's best driver is somewhat innacurate - Sordo earned more points and was more consistent than Meeke in every rally the cars ran in this year....
      • 3 Years Ago
      That's indeed very surprising seeing how amazingly well Mini did on their "test season". Though it also highlights the quality of the current crop that includes just 2 factory based teams.
      M Hugo Rodriguez
      • 3 Years Ago
      They're not "dumping" him as a driver, he's got a contract until the end of 2013. he just needs to beat the sponsor drum more which is a shame. He's pretty fast and needs seat time to build consistency. Hope he's getting residuals on the WRC2 game.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why does this smack of extremely poor planning? Mini just joined WRC. Why did they even bother with that in the first place if they could not properly fund it long term?
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'll pick him up. Figuratively. Unf.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Oh oh oh, pick me! I'm cheap.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wait a minute, Prodrive NEVER run any ferrari factory effort! They bought USED 550s from car dealers and turned them into racing cars. Ferrari never envisioned using the 550 for racing, when they saw how successfull the 550 were they came out with their own version the 575GTC which sucked, never won a race and was nowhere near as competitive as the Prodrive 550 and was regularly beaten it. Ferarri NEVER outsourced their racing effort, get your facts straight.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hmm If Subaru really is planning to make a comeback in the next few years who better to drive for them then the protege of one of their top drivers?