Prodrive chief David Richards is reported to have flown to the Middle East for talks regarding a possible deal to save the Honda Formula One team.

Richards was one of the first names mentioned as a possible saviour of the Brackley-based outfit when Honda revealed it was withdrawing from the sport, having failed with his own bid to bring Prodrive onto the grid this season.

According to Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper, Richards flew to the Middle East on Friday night to begin talks with potential investors who have expressed interest in possibly getting involved in a rescue deal.

Richards already has strong links with the Middle East after selling a stake in Prodrive to the Kuwaiti investors The Investment Dar Company, and he said that a deal could be possible 'if the timing is right'.

"There are a group of people in the Middle East who want to support a Formula One entry for me and have been very specific about it for a year now," he said. "But we have to agree when the timing is right.

"When you sit down in the cold light of day and realise the liability you would be taking on, and the huge restructuring of staff and resources that will be needed, investors will have to think long and hard before taking a punt.

"You will have to bridge a big gap in finance, probably for three years, before balancing the accounts."

Richards added that he needed to be sure that a move into F1 wasn't too big a challenge in the current economic downturn, one which has already hit Prodrive after Subaru's withdrawal from the World Rally Championship.

"It [Subaru's withdrawal] affects about 20 per cent of our business, but we are financially sound and have a talented, nimble organisation with a strong automotive arm looking at future technologies," he said. "Sentiment and perception about the relevance of motorsport has changed in six weeks with the dramatic economic downturn.

"I have not ruled out getting back into Formula One, it's something I am very interested to do. "But the big question remains: Is it too big a challenge at this moment in time? That's what I need to determine."

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