UPDATE 1-Rallying-Suzuki pull out of WRC due to credit crunch

Mon Dec 15, 2008 3:21am EST

(writes through with detail, changes dateline)

By Ossian Shine

SINGAPORE Dec 15 (Reuters) - Suzuki have pulled out of the world rally championship due to the global economic crisis.

The Japanese manufacturer said in a statement on Monday that its decision was in response "to the contraction of the automotive sales caused by recent global economic turmoil."

Suzuki's withdrawal comes 10 days after Japanese carmaker Honda dealt Formula One a blow by pulling out of the sport, citing the uncertainty created by the global downturn.

Suzuki said it quitting the WRC because it "foresees the shrinking trend in longer periods of time rather than a short-term phenomenon."

The firm said it will instead focus on the core business functions "such as the manufacturing system, environment technologies, and development of new-generation powertrains."

Suzuki entered the rally championship fully this year, but have been involved in the junior category for developing drivers since 2002, winning the championship in 2004 and 2007.

The Paris-based team scored 34 points in their maiden WRC season and were placed fifth of six teams overall this year.

Their exit leaves just five entries, with Subaru the only Japanese manufacturer.

Suzuki's drivers this season were Finn Toni Gardemeister and twice junior champion Swede Per-Gunnar Andersson.

Gardemeister finished 13th in the drivers standings, one place below his team mate. The championship was won by Sebastien Loeb racing for Citroen.

(Additional reporting by Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Martin Petty)