Russian Time might be forced out of this year's GP2 and GP3 Series competitions, after it emerged on Monday that they had lost the backing of key partners Motopark following the death of team principal Igor Mazepa earlier this month.
In a statement on its website, Motopark said that it had decided to focus on its core business in the ADAC Formula Masters and the German Formula Three Cup. The team revealed that it had been unable to come to terms with the legal team advising Mazepa's heirs regarding a continued involvement in Russian Time's GP2 and GP3 operations, and had finally decided to call it a day.
"The conditions they had in mind would have resulted in us not being competitive any more,“ Motopark team principal Timo Rumpfkeil is quoted as saying.
"It had always been the aim of both Igor Mazepa and ourselves to establish Russian Time at the very top of every championship we enter," he continued "We showed that we are capable of doing so by winning the GP2 teams' title in our maiden season last year. This was where we should have continued.
"As this seems no longer possible, the cooperation between my Team Motopark and Russian Time unfortunately has come to an end."
Russian Time bought the GP2 assets of iSport International just prior to the start of the 2013 season, and under Mazepa's stewardship went on to win the team championship in their maiden season. Lead driver Sam Bird narrowly missed out on winning the drivers title to Fabio Leimer in a battle that went all the way down to the final weekend at Abu Dhabi.
While Bird is no longer with the team, Tom Dillmann had expected to stay on for a second year alongside an unnamed new second driver, while the team had also been seeking to build on its success last year by moving into GP3 as well after buying out Bamboo Engineering over the winter. However, Monday's announcement by Motopark now throws all those plans into jeopardy.
"It's a shame that we cannot continue to show our potential on an international level," said Rumpfkeil. "I feel especially bad for our GP2 driver Tom Dillmann and our estimated GP3 drivers Marvin Kirchhoefer, Jimmy Eriksson and Markus Pommer, who are left out in the open and without a driven when they were sure they had their ducks in line for the year.
"Neither them nor our team members who worked hard and tirelessly to make our teams' title possible in 2013 have done anything wrong, and none of them deserves such devastating news," he added.
"I am disappointed for everyone at Team Motopark," Dillmann said on Twitter. "They are the guys who made it a winning team."
Russian Time will now need to act fast to get a new operational partner if it is to continue with its GP2 and GP3 operations in 2014. Next month sees two three-day test sessions scheduled for Abu Dhabi and Bahrain involving all teams, with the first round of the new GP2 season following on April 4-6.
On the GP3 side, the first two-day test is at Estoril in Portugal at the end of March, with two more set for April at Jerez and Catalunya before the first race of the championship on May 9-11.
However Sky Sports Online
quoted insider sources confident that negotiations with another team to operate Russian Time are already at an advanced stage, which if successfully concluded would mean that it will continue to compete in both championships in 2014.