SEAT has announced that it will withdraw from the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship at the end of the 2008 season and will also pull the plug on the successful SEAT Cupra Championship.
SEAT joined the BTCC grid back in 2004, winning first time out with Jason Plato in the Toledo at Thruxton, and has since gone on to establish itself as one of the most successful manufacturers in the history of the series, with 43 wins to date.
While the drivers' title proved to be elusive despite a series of strong seasons from Plato in particular, SEAT did take the manufacturers' crown back in 2006 while SEAT Sport UK took the teams' title last year.
SEAT also became the first manufacturer to enter a diesel-powered car in the BTCC this season, with Plato and Darren Turner both taking victory at the wheel of the Leon TDi. Indeed, Plato has won more races than anyone else during the current campaign and goes into the final weekend of the year at Brands Hatch with an outside chance of lifting the title.
The announcement will also bring an end to the SEAT Cupra Championship, which was first run in 2003 and has produced a number of drivers who have gone on to race in both the BTCC and WTCC – including current Chevrolet WTCC ace Rob Huff and BTCC front-runners Gordon Shedden and Mat Jackson.
"SEAT has enjoyed six very successful seasons in British Motorsport - five of them in the BTCC - and it is fair to say that through both touring cars and the SEAT Cupra Championship, the brand's image has been massively enhanced," SEAT UK head of marketing Steve Robertson said. "This is emphatically demonstrated through sales of our hot hatches - the UK is the world's biggest market for the Leon Cupra, for example, while FR and Cupra combined account for over 30 per cent of Leon sales in this country. That's way ahead of any competitor and shows just how our motorsport activities have really established the brand among enthusiastic drivers.
"Now it is time to emphasise SEAT's sporty and stylish image through other marketing activities, which will continue to enhance the brand's profile. I would like to thank all the many people that have helped us achieve so much in both the BTCC and SCC over the past few years - they can be very proud of what they have contributed. I would also like to thank, on behalf of everyone at SEAT UK and SEAT Sport UK, the many fans who have followed our progress over these past few years. Your support is hugely appreciated."