Prodrive is the latest motorsport company to announce redundancies, it has been revealed - as the company reels from Subaru's withdrawal from the World Rally Championship and as many as 600 job losses at Aston Martin.

Subaru's sudden pull-out from the WRC not long after Wales Rally GB last month shocked the motor racing community, with the Japanese manufacturer having been synonymous with the sport for the past two decades.

Banbury-based independent engineering concern Prodrive ran the Subaru World Rally Team's attack from 1989 until the end of last year, and chairman David Richards has revealed that the WRC effort represented around 20 per cent of the company's business and accounted for a 'significant' number of employees. More than 180 staff face the chop, and it is understood that a 90-day redundancy consultation has been initiated.

"It's a very sad time for us," the former WRC-winning co-driver told BBC Oxford, acknowledging that the firm will have to take some hard decisions. "We've had a relationship now with Subaru for 20-odd years.

"We've had some great successes with some world championships, victories and some great drivers, but the whole economic situation in Japan at the moment has been very testing for them.

"Hopefully this isn't a sort of goodbye from the world championship, more of an au revoir - but from our point-of-view we have to look to the future now and work on new projects. We'll have to look at things in a positive frame of mind."

Richards and Prodrive were also in the running to purchase the defunct Honda F1 team, before the Welshman pulled out of the bidding process, arguing that in the current economic climate an entry into the top flight is too risky and would not make any financial risk.

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