Subaru's unexpected decision to withdraw from the World Rally Championship could be the catalyst for the man behind its success to return to Formula One by buying up the Honda team which took a similar decision two weeks ago.
Prodrive boss David Richards was previously involved with the operation until morphed from British American Racing into the works Honda effort, when he was left to concentrate on Prodrive's many automotive projects, notably its programme with Subaru in the WRC, and his involvement with International Sportsworld Communicators in overseeing the broadcast coverage of the championship.
However, with no WRC programme for 2009, Richards' attention could be swayed back towards F1, where he has already been listed among prospective buyers for the suspended Honda team. The Brackley outfit is being offered for the nominal price of $1 in an effort to prevent it from disappearing from Formula One, but any potential buyer has to satisfy certain guarantees with regard to keeping the team running.
Richards, who had won the right to field a twelfth team in F1 this year before pulling out due to uncertainty over the 'customer car' rules, has admitted that, while he is in no rush to snap up Honda, recent rule changes designed to cut the cost of competing in the top flight - combined with the demise of Subaru's WRC commitment - has made the proposition more attractive.
“[Subaru's announcement] certainly clears the decks and gives me a bit of spare time to think about it," he admitted to Britain's Sun
newspaper, “The new structure for F1 from 2010 onwards, with new regulations coming and very significant cost-cutting programmes [in place], certainly make it more appealing and far more suitable for a company such as ours. What's on the table today makes it far more feasible.”
Admitting that 'Subaru's departure is a great loss [for motorsport]', Richards - who also had a brief spell in F1 with Benetton in the 1990s - insisted that 'although this decision closes a significant chapter in Prodrive's history, our focus now turns to the future'.
Subaru took numerous WRC titles, with the likes of Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg at the wheel, but had struggled to match rivals Citroen and Ford in recent years. The team hadn't taken a victory since the final round of 2005 - and that only came after Sebastien Loeb deliberately took a time penalty to avoid winning following a fatality on the event. Prior to that, the Japanese marque's last victory came earlier that season, in Mexico. The introduction of the new Impreza WRC2008 earlier this year was meant to herald a return to form, but resulted only in sporadic podium appearances.
Prodrive also runs Aston Martin's Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar programme and Ford Performance Racing's effort in the Australian V8 Supercar series.