Only a day after Suzuki revealed it would pull out of the World Rally Championship, Subaru has announced that it will follow suit and quit the sport ahead of the 2009 season.

The decision comes as car manufacturers continue to feel the squeeze as a result of the current global economic downturn and will see the series lose one of its biggest and most popular names.

"Subaru's departure from the World Rally Championship is a great loss as it is one of the sport's icons," David Richards, chairman of Prodrive - the outfit behind the team - said. "The Subaru World Rally Team has created true champions such as Colin McRae and Richard Burns and its absence will be felt by many the world over.

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

Although Subaru has taken numerous WRC titles, and carried the likes of McRae, Burns and Petter Solberg to the drivers' crown, recent years have seen it struggle against rivals like Citroen and Ford.

Indeed, the team hasn't taken a victory since Wales Rally GB back in 2005, and that victory for Solberg was only secured after Sebastien Loeb deliberately took a time penalty to avoid winning the title following the death of Michael Park.

Prior to that, Subaru's last victory came in Mexico when Solberg beat Peugeot pair Marcus Gronholm and Markko Martin to secure what would be the last 'on merit' win in the sport for the Japanese marque.

The introduction of the new Impreza WRC2008 earlier this year was meant to herald a return to form, but despite Solberg finishing on the podium first time out in Greece, the new car was unable to break the strangle-hold held by Citroen and Ford.

While Chris Atkinson and Solberg finished fifth and sixth in the drivers' standings, Subaru was never able to challenge the top two in the manufacturers' standings and finished only 31 points clear of Ford 'B' team Stobart VK M-Sport.

In a statement, Prodrive said it would look to redeploy as many members of the rally team as possible to other areas of its business, but questions will now be raised over the future of both Solberg and Atkinson, who find themselves without a drive for the 2009 campaign with both Citroen and Ford having already announced their driver pairings.

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