The Frenchman’s no-show at the Auckland-based event – which makes its World Rally Championship comeback this year for the first time in 10 seasons – leaves just Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith as the only point-scoring Puma Rally1 drivers.

New Zealand will be the second consecutive event Fourmaux will miss out on after having to watch Acropolis Rally Greece from the side-lines earlier this month. However, he did make the trip to the country to participate in the pre-event recce with co-driver Alexandre Coria.

Fourmaux has so far failed to live up to the hype - and expectation - that surrounded him in the build-up to this year, with a combination of car-related troubles and individual errors at important times meaning he has collected just nine points from nine starts.

In a statement issued by M-Sport, it read: “After reassessing Adrien Fourmaux’s targets for the 2022 season, M-Sport has withdrawn Adrien’s entry for Rally New Zealand. M-Sport remains fully committed to Adrien and this decision has been made in conjunction with him and our partners.”

It added: “M-Sport can confirm Adrien will return to action with the team on Rally Spain in a Puma Hybrid Rally1.”

Moments after the announcement came, Fourmaux took to social media to reassure fans, and confirmed he will return to the stages on the penultimate round of the series in Spain next month.

“By mutual agreement with the team supporting me in this difficult time, we will not be at the Rally New Zealand,” said Fourmaux. “In the current situation, the stake for Alexandre and I to participate in this round is unfortunately much less.

“M-Sport have confidence in us and we will be back in Catalonia, a rally we love and are already preparing for with testing happening this week,” he added.

French honour will be upheld in the Southern Hemisphere by 8-time World champion Sebastien Ogier who has confirmed he will return to the Toyota Gazoo Racing line-up for the final three rounds that includes Rally Spain and Rally Japan.