Fact: Subaru pulls out of WRC

Subaru have become the latest team to withdraw from next year’s World Rally Championship as the economic downturn continues to hit motorsport hard.

It comes a day after Suzuki also quit the WRC and less than a fortnight after Honda withdrew from Formula One.

Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg all won titles with the Japanese team in its 20-year history.

“This sudden decision is a response to the widespread downturn affecting the industry,” Subaru said in a statement.

The team was established in 1989, when the manufacturer teamed up with Prodrive, a motorsport and automotive engineering group with dealings in the UK, Thailand and Australia.

“Subaru’s departure from the World Rally Championship is a great loss as it is one of the sport’s icons,” added Prodrive chairman David Richards.

“Although this closes a significant chapter in Prodrive’s history, our focus now turns to the future.”

Richards said the decision had been taken over the course of the weekend as the economic downturn claimed another victim in the world of sport.

“We had an urgent call for a meeting over the weekend,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Despite the fact that we have entered the championship for next year and were actually testing last week in Spain, Subaru just felt the sudden downturn in their business was so dramatic that they had to make some quick decisions.”

One of Richards’s previous roles was team principal at Formula One team BAR, and Prodrive may now look at a move into motorsport’s highest tier.

“It certainly clears the decks and gives me a bit of spare time to think about it, that’s for sure,” said Richards.

“The new structure for F1 from 2010 onwards, with new regulations coming and very significant cost-cutting programmes, certainly make it more appealing and far more suitable for a company such as ours.

“What’s on the table today make it more realistic. It’s still a challenge, not to be underestimated, but it certainly becomes far more feasible.”

Prodrive has said it will be looking to redeploy staff assigned to the WRC programme, which accounts for around 20% of the company’s turnover.

Subaru won six world titles in all, with the last coming with Solberg’s victory in 2003.

But recent years have been harder going for Subaru, with their last rally win coming in Mexico back in 2005.

Subaru’s exit leaves just two manufacturers in next year’s championship in the shape of Citroen and Ford.

[Source: BBC.co.uk]

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