The Subaru World Rally Team has issued a statement today, pledging to do all they can to help Richard Burns, following news that the Englishman will be forced to sit out the 2004 World Rally Championship owing to ill health.

Burns, who has been diagnosed with an 'Astrocytoma' - a form of brain tumour, was due to return to Subaru in 2004, on a two-year deal, after racing for Peugeot in 2002 and 2003.

David Lapworth, Subaru's team principal, commented: "We are very concerned at this news about Richard. There will always be future rallies and future championships, but for now Richard needs to put his own health first.

"Richard will always be welcome at Subaru and we hope that he may again, when fully recovered, work with us once more.

"The team has offered to do what it can to help Richard back to health and return as one of the leading drivers in the WRC."

Regarding the Subaru team's 2004 driver line-up, Lapworth added: "We were excited about the prospect of the Burns and [Petter] Solberg line-up at Subaru next season, and until recently were optimistic that he would recover in time for the first rally.

"We have not yet had much time to consider all the alternative driver options for next year, but we hope to make an announcement in the coming weeks."

Who will replace Burns now remains to be seen, although there are thought to be three main possiblities - Colin McRae, who has been dumped by Citroen, Markko Martin, should Ford decided not to compete next season, and perhaps even Tommi Makinen, should the Finn decide he doesn't want to retire after all.

At the moment though, such 'announcements' seem unimportant.



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