Subaru is cutting its World Rally Championship program immediately, getting out of the series with just Ford and Citroen left to the 2009 season. Subaru has contended in the top flight of rallying since the '90s, and it has employed the Impreza, only in different guises, since 1994.
The motor sport program of Subaru is credited with aiding Subaru to become an out of the ordinary performance producer, a market far away from its typical rural-based customers.
The global economic downturn, however, has obliged Subaru to rethink its WRC involvement. And the newly approved rallying technical regulations, set to be unveiled in 2010, specify that the top teams will employ a vehicle patterned on the present Super 2000 machinery specification.
In effect, this would have forced Subaru to design an all-new vehicle, due to the fact that the Impreza only exists in World Rally Car and more typical Group N forms. The decision is not good news for Prodrive, the engineering consultancy that is based in Banbury that presented the brand to the sport and has been accountable for its hard work in the last 18 years.
The chairman of Prodrive, 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." Prodrive insists that Subaru's team only comprised "no more than 20 per cent" of its revenue. It hopes to redistribute rally team personnel to other areas of its industry. The WRC currently looks desperately feeble; Subaru's pulling out comes only days after Suzuki made it known that it was quitting its new SX4 WRC operation.