Belfast Telegraph

Show will go on: McGarrity

By Sammy Hamill

Will we see the Subarus of Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson on Rally Ireland after all?

Derek McGarrity for one is confident they will be here at the end of January for the opening round of the 2009 World championship.

And John Naylor, event director of Rally Ireland, says he is optimistic the works Subarus will still take part, although perhaps under a different guise.

No one works closer with Prodrive, the British company responsible for Subaru's World championship programme, than former Irish Tarmac champion and triple Circuit of Ireland winner McGarrity.

For much of the past decade he has seen more Subarus pass through his hands than anyone outside Prodrive's Banbury headquarters. Not only does he drive them but he trades them all around the world.

And McGarrity says he expects the Prodrive Subarus of former World champion Solberg and Aussie team-mate Atkinson to be on the start line for Rally Ireland in little over a month's time despite the shock decision of the

parent company in Japan, Fuji Heavy Industries, to withdraw on Tuesday.

"I fully expect Prodrive to go ahead and run the cars even without the official backing of Subaru," he said. "This decision came out of blue and the management at Prodrive had very little time to prepare for it or react to it.

"But I know they are now looking at all the options and that includes going ahead with their World championship programme as a non-manufacturer team. Their entry fees for the year are already paid and the accommodation for the team for Rally Ireland is booked.

"They have already been testing for next season and developing the latest Impreza, the S15.

"From what I've heard I'm fairly confident they will go ahead."

And McGarrity pointed out: "One of the problems Prodrive

have had is that Subaru Technica International in Japan have refused to allow the cars to run with sponsorship. Ever since the famous 555 sponsorship ended, they have insisted on the cars appearing just in their own blue and gold colours.

"Prodrive will now be free to look for outside financial support just as Ford and Citroen have done."

And like Ford and Citroen, there were plans for a second Subaru - or Manufacturer Two - team next season led by young Norwegian driver Mads Ostberg. "I understand that plan is going ahead, possibly with another Norwegian, Henning Solberg, as the second driver," said McGarrity.

He also says the Subaru decision will not affect the Irish scene where Subarus have enjoyed unprecedented success over the past 10 years.

"It will have no direct effect here although the economic situation will. We have already seen a significant reduction in entry numbers for rallies and I can't see that changing for a while. I'm sure Rally Ireland is going to be hit.

"I know I won't be doing it because I can't justify the costs. We were also looking at running cars for two other drivers but they have decided against it. It is just such an expensive rally.

“On the other hand the Galway International which starts the Irish Tarmac championship is looking quite healthy and I intend to be there.”

Kenny McKinstry, who runs a successful Subaru team out of his Banbridge base, agrees with McGarrity there is every chance the Prodrive cars will be here next month.

“Subaru may be gone as a manufacturer team but I think there is every chance Prodrive will carry on,” he said. “I know there is a lot of detail to be sorted out over contracts and finance but from what I’ve been told there is still a strong possibility they will be here for Rally Ireland.”

Meanwhile, event boss Naylor has spoken to Prodrive chief David Richards who assured him the team would be in attendance, at least to support their privateer cars although he had nothing so say on the appearance of Solberg or Atkinson.

Belfast Telegraph


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