Norway's Peter Solberg with British co-pilot Philip Mills get their Subaru Imprezza WRC airborne during the Terranova special.
Norway's Peter Solberg with British co-pilot Philip Mills get their Subaru Imprezza WRC airborne during the Terranova special. The Northern Star

Kyogle Rally hit by two pull-outs

THERE will be four fewer cars tearing around Kyogle in Rally Australia after manufacturers Subaru and Suzuki this week canned their association with the sport.

The iconic Subaru crew shocked the motor sport world yesterday when it announced it had withdrawn from the 2009 World Rally Championship because of the global economic downturn.

It came a day after Suzuki had also pulled out, but produced much larger ripples because of Subaru's high profile that comes from 19 years of racing that includes six WRC titles and has produced champion drivers Colin McRae and Richard Burns.

The news was a blow to Rally Australia organisers, who are consulting with Kyogle residents who may be affected by the event.

General Manager Gary Upson said he was disappointed, but the show would go on.

“To lose Subaru and Suzuki from the World Rally Championship as a result of the global financial crisis is disappointing for our event and for the motor sport community as a whole,” he said.

Upson said it meant the loss of two cars from each manufacturer but added there would still be privateer outfits running Subarus around Kyogle.

“Out of the 60 to 70 competitors, only four will be missing,” he said.

“We expect with those coming off contract (Subaru drivers Petter Solberg and Australian Chris Atkinson) will be picked up and we (still) expect them to be competing.

“We had hoped with Chris driving for Subaru that he'd be right up there.

“We expect over the next week or fortnight to hear some announcements about their futures.”

World champion driver Sebastien Loeb will be here in his Citroen, while world champion manufacturer Ford is also still on the way.

“It's a blow when any manufacturer withdraws, but one of the benefits is it gives all privateers their best chance to get up on to the podium,” Upson said.

“Through this situation there now presents an even more attractive opportunity for our local and international up-and-coming drivers to place well in a round of the World Rally Championship and truly compete for the top spots against the best rally drivers in the world, an opportunity that we hope they will embrace.”



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