The Subaru World Rally Team has decided to cut its losses on the first of two forthcoming tarmac rallies by replacing Juha Kankkunen with French expert Simon Jean-Joseph.

The Banbury-based operation announced the change earlier today [Monday], and hopes to capitalise on the Martinique native's reputation as one of the sport's rising stars. Jean-Joseph has proved particularly adept on asphalt rallies such as Corsica, and is currently performing well in the French national championship.

Kankkunen's absence repeats the Subaru team's strategy of last season, and the Finnish veteran is expected to spend time developing the Impreza WRC2000 for the season-ending rallies in Australia and Great Britain. The car began its world championship in impressive fashion, but has retired in each of the last two events, in Greece and New Zealand.

''I am very honoured to be a member of one of the most prestigious teams in the world championship,'' Jean-Joseph said on hearing of his appointment, ''It's a great opportunity to officially drive one of their cars. For almost a year now, I have been fighting on asphalt against Citroen's Phillipe Bugalski in the French Championship, and this has been excellent preparation for me.''

''Simon carried out some testing work with us earlier this year, and we were very impressed with his performance,'' elaborated Subaru team principal David Lapworth, ''Corsica will be a great opportunity for him to show what he can do in the heat of competition given the support of the championship leading car and team.''

The Tour de Corse begins on 29 September.