The Age - December 16, 2008 - 10:31PM Australian world rally championship driver Chris Atkinson will be forced to look for a new manufacturer in 2009 with Subaru pulling out of the sport because of the global financial crisis. It will be a bitter pill for Atkinson, who had his best ever WRC season in 2008 with five podiums for fifth place overall in the championship. Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars, made the announcement on Tuesday. "Our business environment has rapidly deteriorated. In order to protect the Subaru brand we were forced to make this decision," Fuji Heavy president Ikuo Mori told a press conference. Mori fought back tears as he announced the decision at a press conference, thanking Subaru fans. He cited the global economic slump and falling car sales as major reasons. The company had already decided to pull out of the rally at the end of 2009 but brought forward the timing due to the severity of the business environment, he said. The announcement came a day after Suzuki said it would not compete in the 2009 world rally championship largely because of the present financial crisis. Their exit follows the shock withdrawal of Honda from Formula One earlier this month. Atkinson, who was contracted to drive for Subaru in 2009, crashed in the final round in Wales last weekend and was airlifted to hospital. He was released after it was ascertained he'd only sustained bruising. Subaru were thought to be making a play for the 2009 championship with another car, Atkinson's results this year considered impressive given he only started driving his new Impreza midway through the season.