Pons closes deal with SWRT

Halfway through the 2007 season, Subaru signed Spaniard Xavier Pons to drive a third car on the remaining rounds on the World Rally Championship schedule. The two-year deal will get underway starting with Rally Finland in early August.

The wealthy rally driver born in the Catalan town of Vic (in area that hosts the Spanish round of the WRC) will compete on board a 2007-spec Subaru Impreza WRC in the last eight rounds of the season (ineligible to score manufacturer points), as an appetizer to a full campaign in 2008. The SWRT also has an option on Pons' services for 2009.

27-year old Pons said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to prove myself against the best drivers, and I want to repay the faith the Subaru World Rally Team has shown in me by producing excellent results. It will be a great experience for me to be part of the same team as Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson, and I can’t wait to drive the Impreza WRC2007 for the first time.”

Richard Taylor, SWRT managing director, added: "We’re delighted to be able to field a car for Xevi. It is a huge bonus to get another experienced driver into the team to complement our existing driver line-up." Some sources speculate that Pons looks set to replace Australia's Chris Atkinson, who is said to be heading towards WRC newcomers Suzuki at the end of the current season.

Pons' best season in the WRC so far was 2006, when he teamed up with reigning world champion Sébastien Loeb at Kronos Total Citroën W.R.T. He went on to score 32 points on his way to 7th in the final standings. Being no short of cash, Pons had many different cars in the WRC, but he admittedly never had the chance to drive an Impreza World Rally Car. He is yet to step on the podium of a WRC round despite coming very close in a number of occasions.

In 2007, the Catalan driver initially announced his WRC retirement after failing to secure a works drive and splitting with co-driver Carlos del Barrio. He later got the chance to do selected rounds of the championship on board a private-entered Mitsubishi Lancer WR05. Fellow Catalonian Xavier Amigo reads his pacenotes now, but the outdated Japanese car didn't help them to finish in a points scoring position in any of the three events entered so far.

The signing of a pay driver encourages speculations that British-based company Prodrive, who runs the Subart World Rally Team in the WRC, is now focusing most of its resources on their Formula 1 commitments rather on the rallying project that brought them worldwide recognition in motorsports.
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