16 Dec 08
Subaru has announced its decision to withdraw from the 2009 World Rally Championship.
Prodrive, the company which runs the team on behalf of Subaru, broke the news at 0900hrs this morning. It said the decision was sudden and had been made in response to the economic downturn currently affecting the automotive industry.
Yesterday Suzuki confirmed it would not be back in 2009 for similar reasons.
The Subaru World Rally Team was established in 1989, when the Japanese manufacturer teamed up with British based motor sport specialists Prodrive. Since then the team has won six World Rally Championship titles - most recently the drivers’ title with Petter Solberg in 2003. In recent years, however, the team has struggled to find its previous rally winning form. It last won a rally on the stages in Mexico 2005.
“This is not only sad news for Subaru and the team, but also for millions of rallying fans around the world,” said Prodrive chairman David Richards.
“Subaru’s departure from the World Rally Championship is a great loss as it is one of the sport’s icons. The Subaru World Rally Team has created true champions such as Colin McRae and Richard Burns and its absence will be felt by many the world over. Although this decision closes a significant chapter in Prodrive’s history, our focus now turns to the future.”
While the Subaru World Rally Team historically represented a significant part of Prodrive’s business, today it accounts for no more than 20 per cent of turnover. Prodrive says it will look to redeploy as many of the rally team as possible in other areas of its business operations.
There is no news yet from Subaru about how the decision will affect Subaru’s driver Petter Solberg/Phil Mills and Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot, or whether the company plans to return to the sport in the future.
Prodrive, however, is already lining up its own rally return saying “2010 will see the introduction of new World Rally Championship technical regulations, which provide Prodrive with an opportunity to prepare for re-entering the championship with a new team and build on its 24 years of World Rally Championship experience and success.”
Prodrive also pledged to support its own customer rally teams for 2009 and beyond. Over the past 15 years, Prodrive has sold close to 500 rally cars to more than 400 private competitors and independent rally teams in 47 countries.