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Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen will debut in the FIA World Rally Championship at his “home” rally in Finland late this month.

The Ferrari driver and 2007 Formula 1 champion will contest the Neste Oil Rally Finland on 30 July - 2 August in a Fiat Abarth Grande Punto, a car he has driven on previous rally outings but never in the WRC.

The Neste Oil Rally Finland will be followed in the 12-round FIA WRC by Repco Rally Australia in the New South Wales Northern Rivers on 3-6 September.

Simon Long, Chief Executive of WRC promoter ISC, said: "I've said before that the WRC is built on heroes and iconic figures - and they don't come any bigger than Kimi Räikkönen.

"It's superb news for the championship and hugely exciting that he'll be competing at Rally Finland."

Rally Finland has seen an unprecedented amount of interest in 2009 and has attracted a record number of entries - 90 registered crews - to sign up to the rally. That is the highest number so far in any WRC qualifying round this year and equals this season’s record for the number of World Rally Cars taking part.

There are 18 World Rally Cars among the entries and 25 different nationalities will be represented in Finland, the country widely regarded as the home of rallying.

All the current rally stars will be on show as the battle between championship rivals Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastian Loeb continues to heat up.

Räikkönen will not be the first motorsport World Champion to tackle the WRC. MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi contested the Wales Rally GB as far back as 2002 and most recently finished 12th in the 2008 event driving a Stobart VK Team Ford Focus. He was quoted recently as saying he would like to start a rally career after he retires from MotoGP.

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