Stephane Sarrazin joins Subaru for 2005 season

Stéphane Sarrazin's remarkable performance at the wheel of a Subaru France backed Impreza this year has been rewarded with a works drive for the Subaru World Rally Team in the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship.

As part of Subaru's well established driver development programme, the 29-year-old Frenchman will join Petter Solberg on at least half of the 16 WRC events in the 2005 calendar with the objective of broadening his rally experience which, up to now, has been focussed on sealed-surface events. Alongside experienced French co-driver Jacques-Julien Ranucci, Sarrazin's first event with the Subaru team will be January's Monte Carlo Rally.

"It's really a very big chance for me, after one year in rally it's a great opportunity," said Sarrazin. "This year I pushed a lot to improve myself, to improve my drivability and everything, and now it's just incredible to be in the official team. I will push the same as this year to improve, I will give the maximum I can, they give me a big chance, and because this team is the top team in the World Championship it's exceptional."

Until late 2003, Sarrazin's motorsport career had been predominantly circuit-based. Since winning his first French Karting Championship in 1991, he enjoyed success in Formula Renault, Formula 3 and F3000, as well as two entries in the Le Mans 24 Hour race and a five-year stint as a Formula 1 test driver. But rallying was always in the background, and after taking a Group N Impreza to class victory on his first rally in 2001, Sarrazin made up his mind to move from the racetrack to the special stage. His break came in 2004 when he secured an annual rally scholarship supported by Subaru France and the French motorsport association, the FFSA. Incredibly, on his first attempt, he won the French national rally championship and finished inside the top-10 on three WRC rallies, with a career-best fourth in Spain.

Subaru manufacturer principal, Toshiya Azuma said: "I'm very happy to invite Stéphane to join our team. He has an impressive motorsport pedigree and is a very exciting prospect. By working with Subaru France Stéphane chose to start his rally career with the Impreza, and after such a successful 2004 it's great to be able to reward his efforts by giving him the opportunity to drive with us. Stéphane's a fresh talent, not an established rally driver, and it suits our philosophy of developing the stars of the future. Together with the team I look forward to helping him progress further next season."

"We've been very impressed by what Sarrazin has done this year," said team principal David Lapworth. "It's remarkable that someone who has done 11 rallies and only three at WRC level can run at the pace he has. His approach is very professional, he's serious about everything he does and we're expecting to see the same sort of commitment when we look to broaden his experience onto other surfaces and other WRC rallies. Initially we've signed Stéphane for one year but the intention of our development programme is to find a future world champion. We've selected him because we think he's got what it takes. Signing Stéphane is another crucial step in our driver strategy for 2005 and the door remains open for other fresh talent to join him in the team."

Birthplace: Ales, France
Birth Date: November 2nd, 1975
Nationality: French
Lives: Switzerland

1991: French Karting Champion - Junior
1992: French Karting Champion - National 1
1993: French Formula Renault: 5th
1994: French Formula Renault Champion (5 victories, 11 podiums in 12 races)
1995: French Formula 3
1996: French Formula 3
1997: French Formula 3: 2nd
1998: Formula 1 test driver (Prost Grand Prix). F3000: 6th with 1 victory in Oschersleben
1999: Formula 1 test driver (Prost Grand Prix). First F1 race (Brazil) with Minardi. F3000: 4th with 1 victory in Budapest
2000: Formula 1 test driver (Prost Grand Prix). F3000: 5 races (McLaren Junior Team)
2001: Formula 1 test driver (Prost Grand Prix). F3000: 1 race, 3rd in Monaco. Le Mans 24 Hours with Chrysler. Rallye du Var: 1st (Subaru Impreza)
2002: Formula 1 test driver (Toyota F1). Le Mans 24 Hours with Oreca
2003: FIA World Nissan Cup: 2 victories and 8 podiums
2004: French Rally Champion (Subaru Impreza WRC) 9th WRC Rallye Deutschland, 6th WRC Tour de Corse, 4th WRC Rally Catalunya