Richard Burns, the 2001 World Rally Champion, has been diagnosed with a brain tumour and won’t return to Subaru next year. His setback could turn out to be lifeline for Colin McRae’s career.

Richard Burns, the 2001 World Rally Champion, has been diagnosed with a brain tumour and won’t return to Subaru next year. His setback could turn out to be lifeline for Colin McRae’s career.


Tests have revealed that the Englishman suffers from an Astrocytoma and doctors have advised the Briton to sit out the season.


Burns fainted at the wheel of his road car in the run-up to British Rally two weeks ago and was advised by doctors to miss the event while it was established what was wrong. Richard will undergo a course of radiotherapy treatment which the doctors are confident will prove successful, reported on Tuesday.


"I would really like to thank everyone for their continued support - it means a lot to me," Burns said. "My fans, the Peugeot WRC team and also everyone at Prodrive and Subaru have all been tremendous. The doctors have advised that I am unable to get back in a rally car for the 2004 FIA WRC Championship and I have to accept that. I'm obviously extremely disappointed but I am feeling very positive and I am determined to focus all of my efforts on getting back to full fitness as soon as I can."


David Lapworth, Subaru Team Principal, said: "We are very concerned at this news about Richard. There will always be future rallies and future championships, but for now Richard needs to put his own health first.


"Richard will always be welcome at Subaru and we hope that he may, when fully recovered, work with us once more. The team has offered to do what it can to help Richard back to health and return as one of the leading drivers in the WRC,” he added.


It is not yet clear who will replace Burns in the Subaru line-up as team-mate to newly-crowned world champion Petter Solberg. Lapworth has made it clear, however, that appropriate decisions would be made soon: “We have not yet had much time to consider all the alternative driver options for next year, but we hope to make an announcement in the coming weeks."


One of the favourites for the drive is 1995 World Champion and former Subaru driver Colin McRae. The Scot has temporarily called time on his WRC career after losing his Citroën drive for 2004. One possibility that has already been ruled out is Tommi Makinen postponing his retirement to remain with Subaru. His management team confirmed that the four-time world champion has retired as planned, despite news of Burns' illness.