Suzuki Motor Corporation has decided to suspend its World Rally Championship activities from 2009, it was announced today [Monday].
Suzuki, which started participating in the WRC back in 2002 - with the Ignis Super 1600 in the Junior World Rally Championship, blamed the economic downturn for its decision to quit.
"In responding to the contraction of the automotive sales caused by recent global economic turmoil, Suzuki has been promptly taking possible countermeasures including the reassessment of its global production output," it explained.
"The company, however, foresees the shrinking trend in longer periods of time rather than a short-term phenomenon.
"To secure its own business environment for tomorrow, the organisation reviews every aspect of the operations and decided to focus on the core business functions such as the manufacturing system, environment technologies, and development of new-generation powertrains. As a result, Suzuki concluded to suspend the WRC activities from 2009."
Despite its exit, Suzuki maintained however, that its participation in the WRC had been worthwhile.
"The entry to JWRC and WRC brought a great deal of positive effects on the product development and marketing activities, nurturing the high sporty automotive brand image, especially in Europe," added the manufacturer in its statement to the media.
"Suzuki expresses its great appreciation to sponsors and fans around the world for their strong support to its activities. The company will continue to provide valued products for its customers by utilizing the experiences earned through the JWRC and WRC activities."
Suzuki won the Junior title twice with Per-Gunnar Andersson in 2004 and 2007, before graduating to the 'senior' this season with the SX4 WRC. While Toni Gardemeister and Andersson were both dogged by reliability problems - particularly in the first half of the year - the speed of the SX4 was evident from the off and by the end of the year its potential was increasingly obvious, with P-G finishing fifth in Japan and Wales.
However with the world economy in crisis, Suzuki's decision was perhaps inevitable, and its commitment has been rumoured to be wavering for a number of months, as far back as the summer in fact.
Suzuki's exit means that currently only four teams are confirmed for 2009 - namely the Citroen Total WRT, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT, the Subaru WRT and the Adapta WRT. The fate of the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford RT and the Munchi's Ford WRT has yet to be confirmed.
Despite quitting the sport though, the news was not completely negative and Suzuki did pledge that it will 'continue to support customers who are participating in the Junior WRC, and local motor sport such as Swift Cup with Swift Super 1600 machines in Europe and the rest of the world.' What form this 'support' will take was not stated.