Petter Solberg has announced that he won't be part of the World Rally Championship next season after confirming that he is to leave the M-Sport team.

The future of the 2003 title winner had been called into question when Ford elected to pull the plug on its factory programme, with Solberg making it clear that he wasn't prepared to pay to drive next year.

While he had offered to drive for free, the 38-year-old has now admitted that his chances of being on the entry list next year have passed, with the decision taken to step away from the WRC in order to 'explore and direct focus in a different direction in his successful and decorated career'.

"I am so grateful and happy for what I have experienced during my 15 years in the WRC," Solberg said. "For now, it's really quite sad. I would have loved to have driven for a few more years but I realise that there will not be a WRC programme for me next year. I have said that I am willing to drive for free, but at this point, I will not pay to drive. That is not to say that you will never see me in a WRC car, but for now, I think it's best.

"I know I am good enough to fight at the top for many years still, but I fully understand the difficult financial situation for the 2013 season for M-Sport, and I wish the team all the best for the future."

As well as winning the 2003 title with Subaru, Solberg secured a total of 13 wins in a career that saw him also drive for Ford - in two seperate spells - and his own Petter Solberg World Rally Team.

The Norwegian finished fifth in the standings this season having returned to the Ford line-up alongside Jari-Matti Latvala, with five third place finishes being his best results of the year.

"The sport has given me so much," Solberg added, "and I want to give a special thank you to all of my fans that have supported me through thick and thin, given me such a great feeling about what I do, and have been a large reason why I do it.

"I do hope you all understand, and I hope you'll continue to follow me on to my next venture. I promise to bring you something worthy of this. My team and I are hard at work as you read this, and we can't wait to let you know what our plans are."

Solberg's announcement rules him out of the running for the remaining seat with the newly-named Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team in 2013, with Mads Ostberg already confirmed in one seat for the full season and Nasser Al-Attiyah committed to a seven-event programme.



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