Motor racing: Mallya says Force India will race on for long time

SAO PAULO (REUTERS) - Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya has rejected speculation about his Formula One team's finances, saying they will be racing for years to come.

Speaking at the Brazilian Grand Prix, where only nine teams competed on Sunday, he said Force India would not be following Marussia and Caterham onto the sporting scrapheap.

"All this speculation I think needs to stop," the liquor baron told Reuters. "It's not doing anybody any good...the bottom line is we're OK."

Mallya said the team's 2015 car was almost ready. Asked whether Force India would be definitely racing in 2015 and beyond, he replied: "Of course. Absolutely."

Since last month's Russian Grand Prix, Marussia have folded and Caterham gone into administration.

Force India, Lotus and Sauber, whose finances have also caused concern, want a more equal distribution of the sport's revenues but their "base payment" request appeared to have fallen on deaf ears in Brazil.

Commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told reporters on Sunday that the teams as a whole shared US$900 million (S$1.16 billion) in revenues and ruled out extra payments.

However, Mallya said Ecclestone had told him he was meeting Donald Mackenzie, co-chairman of rights holders CVC, to discuss the matter on Tuesday. "If I don't hear by the end of the week I'll send him a gentle reminder," he added.

Force India is co-owned by Mallya and the Sahara Group run by Subrata Roy, one of India's best known tycoons, who is in a Delhi jail over the conglomerate's failure to refund billions of dollars raised in outlawed bonds.

"Sahara is by no means financially weak or bankrupt," said Mallya. "On the contrary Sahara has a huge amount of financial resources. It is just that they have been asked to refund money to investors and there's a dispute there."

Mallya also has troubles of his own, with United Bank of India in September declaring him and his grounded carrier Kingfisher Airlines "wilful defaulters", although a court has halted execution of the decision.

Debt-laden Kingfisher has not flown for two years for want of cash.

A report in Britain's Sunday Telegraph said Force India had reported a net annual loss of 38.5 million pounds (S$78.8 million) to Dec 31, 2013. That was up from a previous 33.4 million.

The team are currently sixth in the championship.

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