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Suzuki closes WRC team

Toni Gardemeister, Suzuki WRCSuzuki has decided to pull out of the World Rally Championship with immediate effect due to the world's financial crisis.

"In responding to the contraction of the automotive sales caused by recent global economic turmoil, Suzuki has been promptly taking possible countermeasures including the reassessment of its global production output," said the Japanese car maker in a statement.

"The company, however, foresees the shrinking trend in longer periods of time rather than a short-term phenomenon.

"To secure its own business environment for tomorrow, the organization reviews every aspect of the operations and decided to focus on the core business functions such as the manufacturing system, environment technologies, and development of new-generation powertrains. As a result, Suzuki concluded to suspend the WRC activities from 2009."

Suzuki is the second major car maker to pull out of a world championship in the last 10 days, with Honda having announced their exit from Formula One.

Suzuki started its participation in the Junior World Rally Championship in 2002, before moving to the WRC in 2008 with its Junior champion Per-Gunnar Andersson and the experienced Toni Gardemeister.

The team struggled for speed and particularly reliability in the opening rounds, and by mid-season there were already rumours that the SX4 WRC project would be short-lived.

However, despite this uncertainty, Suzuki made good progress in the final part of the championship, with Andersson finishing fifth in both Japan and Great Britain, having run in the top three in the latter event.

The Japanese company said it would continue to support its customer teams taking part in the JWRC.

"Suzuki expresses its great appreciation to sponsors and fans around the world for their strong support to its activities," it added. "The company will continue to provide valued products for its customers by utilising the experiences earned through the JWRC and WRC activities."

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