Then there were two. Mitsubishi has decided to quit the world rally championship, leaving only Ford and Subaru fielding full factory teams for next year's series.

Citroen, Peugeot and Skoda pulled out earlier, leaving a host of class drivers, including champion Sebastien Loeb, without a works drive.

The championship may have lost its big players but Skoda, Citroen and Peugeot will support private teams and Ford is promising to extend its influence in that area.

Loeb already has a privateer Citroen drive and yesterday Henning Solberg and Manfred Stohl were confirmed in a Peugeot offshoot, Bozian Racing, to contest 12 rounds, including Rally New Zealand in November.

Mitsubishi claimed four straight drivers' titles with Tommi Makinen in the late 1990s and won the manufacturers' title in 1998. This year the team finished fifth in the standings with 76 points with their best result a second placing for Harri Rovanpera in the season finale in Australia.

Mitsubishi has had financial concerns in recent years and has criticised the world governing body, FIA, over the future of the championship.

Supercar boss switches to Minis

Martin Collins, team manager for Team Kiwi since its debut in the Aussie V8 Supercar series, has resigned to guide the launch of the new Mini Cooper S championship in New Zealand under the auspices of BMW.

Collins expects 20 of the cars to arrive next month with the championship due to start in the 2006-2007 season. Already there has been keen interest and 12 deposits have been paid..

The preparation of the cars will be strictly controlled. Collins expects close racing because the Mini Cooper is a driver's car and should restore the overtaking that has been missing from many forms of the sport.

Teen winner takes after his father

Sam Smith, the Glenbrook teenager who won the 600cc TT at Pukekohe on Sunday, has taken an unusual path to the top.

His father is a classic bike enthusiast and Smith learned his racing on older machines before stepping up to the Yamaha he rode last weekend.

A couple of weeks ago in Tasmania he won the Classic 500 class in the Australian historic championships, riding a Norton ES2. Second was his mentor, Dave Cole, who is guiding his racing career.

New rally format to be tested next year

Rally New Zealand, the organisers of the New Zealand leg of the world rally championship, will host a new rally in 2006, which will be a round of the national championship.

The event, scheduled for July 1-2, will be the third round of the six-round championship and may be based in Whangarei. It will test a new format for the NZRC with Saturday being a one-day rally and Sunday a one-day rally sprint. Championship points will be on offer in each event.

BMW test drive for Bamber in Bahrain

Wanganui Formula Ford driver Earl Bamber has flown to Bahrain to test a Formula BMW car at Bahrain International Circuit.

The 15-year-old Bamber, who has spent just four weekends in Formula Ford race cars after a successful karting career, earned the chance after impressing representatives of Team Meritus, who are running a Toyota Racing Series car in New Zealand this summer.

V8 super school adds Team Kiwi replica

The V8 Super School based on the Gold Coast in Australia has added a Holden Commodore in Team Kiwi Racing livery to its fleet of race-replica cars that motorsport fans and the public can drive or ride in as passengers.

The black livery with silver fern and 021 number on the side panels of the Holden is virtually identical to the TKR Commodore that New Zealand driver Paul Radisich raced to 14th in this year's V8 Supercar Championship.

The V8 Super School driving and passenger ride packages operate on the 2.1km track at the Holden Performance Driving Centre at Norwell, where the Paul Morris Motorsports and TKR V8 Supercar teams are based as part of a technical partnership which began this year.