News - Honda
Honda to pull pin on rally assault
ARC left reeling as Honda joins Toyota in withdrawing from 2009 series
29 Jan 2009
HONDA Australia will not contest the 2009 Australian Rally Championship, leaving the once-buoyant series with no manufacturer-supported teams.
The company told GoAuto it was “highly unlikely” Honda would compete in any ARC events this year, and confirmed that it would definitely not contest the whole series.
Honda ran two rounds of the ARC last season and announced its plan to contest the entire 2009 ARC season in October.
The latest news comes days after Toyota Australia announced it was pulling out of the sport after dominating it for the past three seasons.
Left: Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh.
Just four years ago, the ARC had manufacturer teams from Subaru, Mitsubishi, Ford and Toyota. This year, it will be contested solely by privateers.
Honda Australia spokesman Mark Higgins said the company had been looking forward to contesting the ARC this season when it announced its rally plan last year, but said two main factors had led to the change of plan.
“First of all, we would have to build a new car as the last one was damaged in the final round of last season,” he said. “It is also probably a budget issue as well.”
The economy was in a far better shape when the decision to field a works team for the 2009 series was made, said Mr Higgins.
“A lot has changed since October,” he said. “This would have put an enormous strain on our budget.”
Mr Higgins said the company was yet to make a final decision on whether it might consider backing a team to run one or two events this season, but it seems like a long-shot.
“We certainly wouldn’t do the whole championship, and it is also highly unlikely we would do selected rounds.”
Honda competed in the Canberra and Coffs Coast rallies last season with British Rally Champion Guy Wilks driving and Phil Pugh navigating.
The pair failed to finish both events, suffering a mechanical failure on the second leg in Canberra and crashing out on the second day in the Coffs Harbour rally.
Even so, Wilks and Pugh were able to show the pace of the Honda by finishing second in the first leg of the Coffs event.
The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) has expressed its disappointment after Toyota announced it would pull out of the ARC, and admits it is a blow to the highest class of rallying in Australia.
CAMS CEO Graham Fountain said: “This is clearly an indication of the tough times ahead for the sport.
“While the decision is disappointing, and the ARC and broader rally fraternity will miss Toyota’s involvement, CAMS remains committed to supporting a viable and sustainable championship,” he said.
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