The enterprise and initiative of Total-Elf, partner of both the ING Renault F1 Team and Citroen Sport, today saw the recently-crowned four time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb swap his seat with Heikki Kovalainen during a special promotional event at Le Castellet in the south of France.
Performing in front of a crowd of French and international journalists, the drivers needed no encouragement to get into the swing of things, and they spent much of the day in deep discussion as they fine-tuned their driving styles, each trying to find the limit of their machines.
Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo both got a taste of Formula 1 power at the wheel of the world championship-winning R26, victor of the 2006 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. Sebastien Loeb, already familiar with circuit racing after participating in the 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours, was delighted to have the opportunity to drive another car with title-winning credentials -- and thrilled with the experience as he climbed from the cockpit.
As for Heikki Kovalainen, he is a true Finn -- and that means rallying is in the blood. Today's test in the title-winning Citroen C4 was a special day for the man from Suomussalmi, as he took the wheel on a special stage near the Paul Ricard HTTT. What's more, he had a pretty useful co-driver alongside him, as Loeb took the second seat to provide the Finn a few special tips.
Sebastien Loeb commented at the end of the day: "Today has been a fantastic experience; if I'm honest, it's a little bit like Christmas come early! I have just become a father for the first time, I won my fourth world title last weekend, and now a dream has come true: driving a Formula 1 car for the first time. I was very impressed with the grip generated by the aerodynamics, which is radically different from what we are used to in rallying. I already knew Paul Ricard well from my testing before Le Mans last year, so it meant I could really make the most of today's opportunity. It was a truly exceptional day."
Heikki Kovalainen echoed the words of his fellow driver: "This was a wonderful day, and I had a great time driving Sebastien's car. I had previously been in this type of car as a co-driver, but this was miles better! I felt quite comfortable, even though the sensations are extremely different to what you feel in an F1 car. I talked a lot with Sebastien and Dani, and it was interesting to see how they controlled the car in the slow and high-speed corners, and learn from it. In return, I was able to give them some advice about the R26, and I hope they both enjoyed the experience."
ING Renault F1 Team would like to thank Total-Elf for enabling this special event, as well as Citroen Sport for their collaboration.