Subaru has announced its decision to withdraw from the 2009 World Rally Championship.
This sudden decision was in response to the widespread economic downturn that is affecting the entire automotive industry, and follows Suzuki's withdrawal announced yesterday.
After 20 years in the sport, during which time the Prodrive-run Subaru World Rally Team has won six World Rally Championship titles, this is not only sad news for Subaru and the team, but also for millions of rallying fans around the world. Thanks to its highly successful World Rally Championship programme, Subaru has developed into one of the world's most widely recognised and evocative automotive brands.
Prodrive chairman, David Richards, said: "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."
For many, Prodrive and Subaru are synonymous, given the long-standing and close association between the two companies. However, 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 the company's turnover.
Prodrive will look to redeploy as many of the rally team as possible in other areas of its business operations, which have grown to span advanced engineering and manufacturing for the automotive, defence, marine and aerospace industries, in addition to other motorsport programmes.
Despite the current economic downturn, Prodrive's automotive engineering business remains buoyant as it works with vehicle manufacturers to accelerate the development of next generation fuel-efficient vehicles and alternative fuel technologies.
Together with Subaru, Prodrive's commitment to its customer rally teams will also continue unabated 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. During this time, Prodrive's customers have won five consecutive Production World Rally Championships and countless international rallies. In 2008, Prodrive- supported customer teams have claimed eight rally championship titles around the world.
Looking ahead, 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.