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An exciting chapter in New Zealand rallying has been brought to a close with the announcement that Subaru of New Zealand will be withdrawing its sponsorship of the Subaru NZ Rally Team (SNZRT) after this month's Rally of New Zealand WRC event.

With its motorsport partner Winger Subaru, Subaru of New Zealand set up SNZRT three years ago with the key objectives of running a highly professional and successful team. The aim was to set some benchmarks in the national championship and contribute to the exposure and growth of rallying and the Subaru brand in New Zealand.

SNZRT has run Chris West in the national series for the last three years, winning the national championship in 2004 and finishing runner-up last year. While 2006 has been challenging, it saw West win more special stages in the championship than any of his rivals and take overall honours at the Whangarei and Hawkes Bay events.

Having closely scrutinized its involvement with the SNZRT, Subaru of New Zealand has made the decision to withdraw from its direct involvement in the team after the World Rally Championship event, Rally of New Zealand being held from November 17-19.

“A decision of this magnitude is not taken lightly," said Chris Rickards, the General Manager of Subaru of New Zealand. "We have conducted a wide-ranging review of our strategic direction and that included our direct participation in rallying through SNZRT.

“We have had a fantastic three years and have achieved all key objectives. The experience has shown us we have the skills and resources to be directly involved in the running of a successful team but also show our all important customers just how impressive our AWD Subaru Impreza’s perform in this demanding sport.

“SNZRT has assisted in establishing our credentials as a performance brand and cemented the link between the Subaru Impreza WRX and Subaru’s world rally program. Subaru of New Zealand and Winger Subaru have achieved everything the team set out to do.

"Our brand is inexorably linked with rallying, both locally through the national championship and internationally through the World Rally Championship. The credentials of the Impreza WRX and Impreza WRX STI are beyond reproach.

“However at the same time we must recognize our changing customer base. And as our sales volume continues to grow we have an increasing number of owners with diverse interests, outside of rallying.

“We are looking to focus more on programs that have a more direct impact on these customers and can really show the outstanding benefits of owning an All Wheel Drive, boxer engine Subaru.

“Against this background – a changing brand, changing customer needs and a range that incorporates a greater selection of vehicles – we made the decision to withdraw from rallying.

“We are very appreciative of all the work and commitment Winger Subaru, Chris West and the rest of the team have shown over the last three years with their involvement with SNZRT. We also are very thankful for the support from our key sponsors, Castrol and Dunlop and the organisers of the National Championship and each exciting round we participated in during our involvement.

“We look forward to seeing the continued success of rallying in New Zealand through such events as the National Championship and the growing involvement of other sponsors who may be interested in running a team in this growth sport," he said.

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