Having recently expressed an interest in perhaps switching to rallying once his Formula One career was over, Kimi Räikkönen has revealed that he will make his World Rally Championship debut on the forthcoming Neste Oil Rally Finland.
The Ferrari F1 driver will pilot a S2000 class Fiat Abarth Grande Punto on the 30 July-2 August event, one of the most prestigious on the WRC schedule, and will be co-driven by the experienced Kaj Lindstrom, who formerly partnered multiple world champion Tommi Makinen.
Raikkonen may be a rookie on Rally Finland, but will at least be familiar with his mount, having campaigned the Grande Punto on his previous rally outings at national level. Although his most recent outing, an asphalt debut in Italy, was cut short by a mechanical problem, the 29-year old has two other events under his belt
"I've said before that the WRC is built on heroes and iconic figures - and they don't come any bigger than Kimi Raikkonen," Simon Long, CEO of championship promoter ISC, commented, comparing the Finn's appearance as on a par with that of MotoGP ace Valentino Rossi, "It's superb news for the championship and hugely exciting that he'll be competing at Rally Finland."
Neste Oil Rally Finland has seen an unprecedented amount of interest in 2009 and has attracted a record 90 registered crews to its entry list, the highest number so far in any WRC qualifying round this year. The event falls neatly in F1's usual summer break, longer this year due to the calendar reshuffle, starting on the Friday following the Hungarian Grand Prix.