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No place for ex-champion Solberg in 2013 championship

MYT 9:50:02 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Norway's 2003 world rally champion Petter Solberg will not compete in next year's championship following the withdrawal of Ford as a works team.

The 38-year-old, who won his title with Subaru, said in a statement on Tuesday that he was saddened to call an end to his time in the championship - for the time being - after 15 years and 188 starts.

Petter Solberg of Norway arrives at the service area during the last day of the FIA World Rally Championship WRC Neste Oil Rally Finland, near Jyvaskyla August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva
Petter Solberg of Norway arrives at the service area during the last day of the FIA World Rally Championship WRC Neste Oil Rally Finland, near Jyvaskyla August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva

"I would have loved to have driven for a few more years but I do realise there will not be a WRC programme for me next year," said the Norwegian, who ran his own team for three years after Subaru pulled out in 2008.

"I have said I am willing to drive for free, but at this point I will not pay to drive."

Ford announced in October they were withdrawing works support from the championship, with the M-Sport organisation that has run the factory team since 1997 continuing as a private entry on a limited budget.

Solberg's absence will leave the sport without any past champions competing for the title, with France's Sebastien Loeb doing only a limited number of events after winning nine championships in a row with Citroen.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Josh Reich)

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