Burns switches back to Subaru

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The Independent Online

Richard Burns ended months of speculation about his future yesterday by agreeing a two-year deal to rejoin Subaru from Peugeot from next season.

The 32-year-old, who leads the championship by five points with five rallies left, will replace Finland's four-time world champion Tommi Makinen who announced earlier in the day that he would retire at the end of this campaign.

"Subaru is the team I've had the most success with," said the Englishman. "And I'm really looking forward to being part of it again."

Burns became the first Englishman - and the second Briton after Scotland's Colin McRae - to win the drivers' crown in 2001 in a Subaru Impreza. He then switched to the French Peugeot after a contractual row with Subaru who wanted to keep his services.

Burns took time to adapt to the new car and has yet to win a rally in a 206 having often found himself outpaced by his Finnish team-mate Marcus Gronholm who regained the title last year. But a consistent series of finishes in the car this season has left him with a handy advantage in the title chase heading to the next rally in Australia early next month. Burns, who will be joined by long-time co-driver Robert Reid, will again partner Norway's Petter Solberg.

Makinen, meanwhile, has decided to bring his hugely successful 16-year career to a climax on the Rally GB in Wales in November. "It's a decision I haven't made lightly," said the 39-year-old who won the title in four successive years between 1996 and 1999 and has claimed 24 victories in 134 WRC events.

"Realistically, there isn't really much for me to gain by carrying on at this level and my thinking is that it's better to stop when you're at the top."