Rally Australia will make its first appearance on the Coffs Harbour coast on 8-11 September, but it will be without 2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen after the Finn withdrew from the event.
Raikkonen had entered the event, but has pulled his entry due to a budget shortfall.
The 31-year-old is competing in his second season of the WRC, but despite sitting eighth in the standings has not been the force he was in Formula One.
After enjoying strong support from Red Bull last year as part of the Citroen Junior Team, he has had less support from the Austrian energy drinks company in 2011 with his Ice 1 team running without a major corporate backer. The costs of shipping the Citroen DS3 and his crew from Europe were seen to be excessive and he will instead concentrate on the remaining events in France, Spain and the UK.
Since leaving F1 Raikkonen has tried his hand at a number of motor sports disciplines including NASCAR. Earlier this year he raced a single Camping World Truck Series event and made one Nationwide Series start. However, despite showing strong pace he was unable to draw corporate backing to race in further events.
On a brighter note for the Finn he will test a Peugeot 908 Le Mans car at the Spanish Motorland Aragon this week.
It is understood that it could lead to a possible outing in next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, with Peugeot keen to evaluate Raikkonen’s speed in the car.
Raikkonen has admitted that he is keen on competing at Le Mans, but would only do so with an expanded programme of races the French car giant.
“It would be great to do Le Mans,” Raikkonen told Finland’s Turun Sanomat.
“But if you race there, you should do some races as a test as well. It could be tricky to get all the schedules working well.”
Peugeot has previously tested seven-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb and is keen to run high-profile drivers at Le Mans, as it did when 1997 Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve was in its line-up in 2007 and ’08.
PSA Peugeot Citroen management board member Jean-Marc Gales declined to confirm Raikkonen’s test, but admitted that it was possible and that a race seat could be on the cards if he was fast enough.
“I don’t exclude that [Raikkonen testing the car], ” Gales told AUTOSPORT.com
“But nothing has been decided on our pilots for Peugeot for next year.
“Clearly, it depends how fast he is and I can’t comment on that because we haven’t done it yet.”