The British Grand Prix's future has been thrown into fresh doubt after Donington Park's owners, Wheatcroft & Son Limited, commenced legal proceedings against the track's operator – Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd – over unpaid rent.
The Wheatcroft family's company is seeking £2.47m ($3.6m) in rent arrears and for Donington Ventures Leisure to forfeit its lease on the circuit, which is scheduled to host the British GP from 2010.
Donington Ventures was given a 150-year lease of the circuit at the start of 2007.
"It is with great reluctance that we have taken this decision," said Kevin Wheatcroft of Wheatcroft & Son. "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.
"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."
The move comes as Donington is embarking on a massive redevelopment programme in preparation to host the British Grand Prix next year, having been awarded a 10-year deal to hold the race from 2010.
Problems with run-off area caused by the building of a new access tunnel have caused a string of event cancellations at Donington in recent weeks, but circuit boss Simon Gillett has remained adamant that work is proceeding on schedule and would be completed in time for next year's Formula 1 race.
Bernie Ecclestone has previously insisted that if Donington is not ready to hold the British round of the world championship, the race will be removed from the calendar rather than returning to current venue Silverstone.