The FIA World Rally Championship is entering a very 'dangerous phase' according to WRC rights holder, and Subaru boss, David Richards, in the wake of the changes announced on Tuesday that will dramatically alter the format of the WRC in 2004.

Richards told The Times: "The overriding issue for me is the way [the rules are] being imposed on the World Championship. You've got a commission with all the appropriate stakeholders. To take the authority away from that group is wrong.

"If it's the manner in which the FIA proposes to deal with matters, you have to question the whole structure of the commission and the FIA. We are going into a very dangerous phase."

Ford BP Rallye Sport are one team now said to be seriously considering their position. It is believed they are unhappy now that next year's calendar will feature two extra rounds.

Jost Capito, Ford's European head of motor sport, told The Times: "It is not clear whether Ford will be in the 2004 World Rally Championship.

"Ford budgets are being reduced and if budgets need to be increased - by up to ?2 million for Japan and Mexico - the feeling within the company is that might not be right."

Other teams are also said to be unhappy following the proposals announced this week. Hyundai is another according to the British broadsheet newspaper, that might be forced to withdraw, in light of the subsequent increase in costs brought about by moving from a 14 to a 16 round series.

Although the FIA has introduced measures to cut costs, most noticeably a ruling that means that only two cars entered per manufacturer will be eligible to score points, this will not have any significant influence on Ford, or Hyundai, who only enter two cars at present anyway.

Other losers include the Peugeot team, three weeks ago they confirmed a four-car line-up for next year, with Marcus Gronholm, Harri Rovanpera, Freddy Loix and Daniel Carlsson. It remains to be seen now what will happen with Loix and Carlsson, although it is unlikely either will have a drive with the French manufacturer next year, should the new changes remain.



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