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Iconic Subaru quits world rally championship

  • Story Highlights
  • Japanese carmaker Subaru pulls out of world rally championship
  • Sudden decision comes hard on heels of withdrawal of rivals Suzuki
  • Colin McRae and Richard Burns won world titles with Subaru
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(CNN) -- The world rally championship is facing a major crisis after Japanese carmaker Subaru announced on Tuesday that it was quitting the competition ahead of the 2009 season.

The Subaru of Colin McRae in typical action during the 1998 British round of the world championship.

Subaru's withdrawal comes just a day after rivals Suzuki pulled out of rallying's premier competition, which has lost one-third of its constructors this week as the global economic downturn bites.

It follows the shock decision of Honda, Japan's second biggest car manufacturer, to withdraw from Formula One.

"Our business environment has been dramatically changed due to the quick deterioration of the global economy," Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries said in a statement released on Tuesday.

"In order to optimize the management resources and to strengthen further the Subaru brand, FHI decided to withdraw from WRC activities at the earliest timing."

Subaru has been one of the leading constructors in the rally championship, helping British drivers Colin McRae and Richard Burns to world titles.

But in recent years its fortunes have waned, with the Citroen team of current world champion Sebastien Loeb and Ford dominating.

Subaru finished a distant third in this year's constructors race.

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The team is run by Prodrive, whose chairman David Richards issued a defiant message as the news of Subaru's pull out became public.

"Subaru's departure from the world rally championship is a great loss as it is one of the sport's icons," he told Press Association.

"Although this decision closes a significant chapter in Prodrive's history, our focus now turns to the future."

Richards said that his company hopes to run a team in the 2010 championship when a raft of new technical regulations will be implemented to drive down costs.

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