WRC

Rally Finland: Red Bull leg 1 summary

KIMI RAIKKONEN FLIES HIGH IN FINLAND Rally Finland used to be known as the 'Rally of the 1000 Lakes' but this is actually a lie because there are more than 260,000 lakes in Finland. The city of Jyvaskyla, rally headquarters, is home to the ...

KIMI RAIKKONEN FLIES HIGH IN FINLAND

Rally Finland used to be known as the 'Rally of the 1000 Lakes' but this is actually a lie because there are more than 260,000 lakes in Finland. The city of Jyvaskyla, rally headquarters, is home to the second-largest and deepest of them: Lake Paijanne.

Impressive as that all sounds, this is nothing compared to the number of saunas that there are in Finland: estimated to be nearly two million. The traditional Finnish sauna is a unique experience, where temperatures regularly exceed 80 degrees centigrade. It's a central part of life in Finland - there is a Finnish saying that goes: "If alcohol or the sauna won't cure it, then the disease is probably fatal."

At the moment, Finland is enjoying its hottest summer since 1934, so for once the sauna is probably unnecessary. But despite temperatures that have recently exceeded 35 degrees, some rain even fell on the opening day of Rally Finland today. It's the sort of event where anything can happen.

For Red Bull driver Kimi Raikkonen, tackling his first Rally Finland at the wheel of a World Rally Car, today was all about learning. Having used a less powerful Super 2000 machine on Rally Finland last year, the 2007 Formula One World Champion was determined to capitalise on the experience. Above all his mission was to stay out of trouble and work on his pace notes, which need pinpoint accuracy because the stages are so fast. As quite a few drivers have found out over the years, there is no such thing as a small accident in Finland.

"Going off here certainly isn't a great idea," agrees Kimi. "That's why we really didn't want to take any risks all day. It's been very good fun to compete at home, but this is an event that requires a lot of concentration: particularly with the pace notes. It takes a little time to settle into this rally and there's really no room for mistakes. But I think we made progress throughout the day and I'm feeling more and more comfortable with the car, especially during the second run through the stages. Experience definitely helps, and I don't have much of that in a rally car for now. Tomorrow we'll see how we feel and what we can do, but so far we're on target to achieve our goal of a solid finish in the points."

Kimi has a tough job, but the task of the man sitting next to him is maybe even harder. Co-driver Kaj Lindstrom calls out the pace notes: a non-stop job over the flat-out crests of Finland.

"I'm talking all the time here," says Kaj, who is competing on his 10th Rally Finland but has still somehow managed not to lose his voice. "One of the best things about today has been how me and Kimi have worked with the pace notes. This is one of the hardest rallies of the year in terms of understanding pace notes: there is a huge amount of information for a driver to take in during a very short space of time. Given Kimi's lack of experience, what he has done today has been very impressive. Tomorrow the plan is for more of the same."

Tomorrow is also the very last day of the Rally Finland, with the event switching to a two-day format for the first time in its 60-year history. About a fifth of the country's five million population turn up to watch the rally, so expect the stages tomorrow to be crowded with exuberant fans.

For Kimi, it's just a question of getting to the end of the rally and scoring some well-deserved points. Then, like every good Finn, he'll probably go for a nice long sauna.

-source: red bull

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