MRF mulling motor sports exit as meltdown hits

February 17th, 2009 - 7:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Feb 17 (IANS) India’s tyre major MRF Ltd. are undecided about their involvement in the 2009 motor sport season in view of the global recessionary environment and consequent cost-cutting measures.

Speaking to IANS here Tuesday, Anthony Rodricks, general manager-advertising and the head of the company’s motor sport activities, said: “At this moment, we are unsure about our participation in the 2009 Asia Pacific Rally Championship or for that matter, motor sport activities. Maybe, we will take a call by the end of this month.”

For over two decades, MRF have been in the forefront of Indian motor sport and for the past six years, the Chennai-based firm has been participating in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, winning the title in 2003 and 2005.

MRF have shelved, for the time being, the development work on the 1.6 litre Ford Duratec-engine driven Formula racing car that was unveiled in Dec 2007 but is yet to see serious action.

Admitting that MRF is into cost-cutting mode, Rodricks said: “As for the 2009 APRC, if we participate, we might opt for a one-car team, but certainly not three cars like in the past two years. If it is just one car, then most likely Gaurav Gill will drive.”

As per the regulations, MRF have time until March 28 to send their entry for the 2009 APRC season that commences April 10 with the Rally of New Caledonia.

MRF have had a tie-up with Mitsubishi Motors, but the Japanese car manufacturer has been hit hard by the global meltdown and sharp drop in sales.

“We have to consider this (Mitsubishi’s position) also while deciding on our APRC involvement,” said Rodricks.

In fact, Mitsubishi is among the latest Japanese majors to exit motor sport events when it withdrew from this year’s Dakar Rally as part of their cost-cutting measures.

Mitsubishi won the Dakar Rally 12 times in 26 appearances, including a record seven consecutive victories from 2001 to 2007.

Other Japanese majors Honda (Formula One), Subaru and Suzuki (World Rally Championship) and Kawasaki (Moto GP - two-wheelers) have already exited from their respective events.

Likewise, MRF’s participation in the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) is also in some doubt, although Rodricks affirmed that a final decision was still to be taken at the end of this month.

“As of today, there is a question mark on our involvement in motor sport,” said Rodricks.

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