WEST Midland motorsport specialist Prodrive is to find new work for about 100 staff affected by the decision by former world champion Subaru to pull out of the World Rally Championship due to the global economic crisis.

The Banbury-based company, which ran the team, said its partnership with the Japanese car company accounted for about a fifth of its estimated £100million turnover.

Asked whether Subaru’s decision to pull out of rallying could result in redundancies, a spokesman for Prodrive said yesterday: “It’s too early to say.

“The staff were told this morning and the aim is to move people around the business.”

Subaru owner Fuji Heavy made the announcement a day after fellow Japanese carmaker Suzuki said it was pulling out of rallying.

It leaves just champions Citroen, owned by PSA Peugeot Citroen, and cash-strapped Ford as the only manufacturers in next year’s championship.

“Our business environment has changed dramatically due to the rapid deterioration of the global economy,” Fuji Heavy chief executive Ikuo Mori said in Tokyo.

“In order to optimise the management resources and to strengthen the Subaru brand further, Fuji Heavy decided to withdraw from WRC activities at the earliest time.’’ a tearful Mr Mori said in a press conference.

Carmakers all over the world are under severe pressure to find ways to reduce spending as a sudden downturn in global car demand knocks profitability.

Honda, Japan’s second largest automotive group, has quit Formula One racing for similar reasons, saying it needed the cash for its core carmaking business.

Rallying does not have anything like the budgets of Formula One, where a team like Honda can burn through $500million a year, and the sport also has a long-standing tradition of private entrants.

Prodrive chairman David Richards said: “Subaru’s departure from the World Rally Championship is a great loss as it is one of the sport’s icons.”

“The Subaru World Rally Team has created true champions such as Colin McRae and Richard Burns and its absence will be felt by many the world over.’’

Subaru, which has used rallying to transform its brand image, won the world title for three years in a row between 1995 and 1997.

Prodrive, whose operations also take in defence, marine and aerospace activities, said that despite the downturn its automotive engineering business “remains buoyant as it works with vehicle manufacturers to accelerate the development of next-generation fuel-efficient vehicles and alternative fuel technologies”.