Raikkonen drives Rally Finland in a Fiat Punto Abarth

The World Rally Championship is targeting the participation of four major manufacturers within the next two seasons, and according to the latest scuttlebutt, they just might get what they are wishing for. At the turn of the millennium, the premier rally series had seven manufacturers, but series organizers and promoters reportedly feel that four would make for a more competitive environment.

Suzuki and Subaru recently withdrew their works teams from the championship, leaving Ford and Citroën as the only manufacturers in the sport together with the independent customer teams. Both Volkswagen and Fiat are expected to launch WRC efforts in the near future, but it's Fiat's initiative that's garnering the most interest in the motorsport press, as it's rumored to include one very big name.

According to rumors, Kimi Raikkonen will leave Formula One and Scuderia Ferrari to lead the Fiat rally team, expected to compete under the Abarth name. Raikkonen recently contested a series of rallies in his spare time behind the wheel of his own S2000-spec Fiat Punto Abarth (pictured above), adding fuel to the speculation suggesting that Raikkonen could have his existing contract with Ferrari simply transferred over to the Abarth outfit, as it falls under the same Fiat group umbrella as Ferrari. The move would make room for Fernando Alonso to take Kimi's place in the culmination of a long anticipated move for the Spanish champion.

[Source: Autosport and Pitpass | Image: OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty]