WRC

Rally Japan: Red Bull leg 1 summary

KIMI GETS TO GRIPS WITH JAPANESE CULTURE Nothing is ever what it seems to be in Japan, especially the toilet. On the one hand, it looks like a toilet: it has a seat and a porcelain bowl. On the other hand, it has a set of controls next to it...

KIMI GETS TO GRIPS WITH JAPANESE CULTURE

Nothing is ever what it seems to be in Japan, especially the toilet. On the one hand, it looks like a toilet: it has a seat and a porcelain bowl. On the other hand, it has a set of controls next to it that look like they were stolen from an Apollo rocket.

The buttons on Kimi Raikkonen's steering wheel in his rally car control state-of-the art functions such as launch control and differential maps. The buttons on his toilet, back in the team hotel in Sapporo, are more to do with basic bodily functions.

The most advanced Japanese toilets allow the user to warm the toilet seat to a pre-determined heat, as well as choosing a temperature for the integrated shower bidet that cleans intimate areas. Afterwards, a fan gently dries the freshly washed regions while the user can even select some favourite music as an accompaniment to this activity.

The stages of Rally Japan are a lot less restful. Japan is well known for being one of the toughest events on the rally calendar, and this year is proving to be no exception for the 2007 Formula One World Champion. From the beginning Kimi took an understandably cautious approach to only his ninth World Championship event in the Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC, to be sure of making the finish on Sunday.

There was a bit of everything on the opening day's stages: narrow and twisty sections of road that were only one car-width wide, as well as faster and more open territory. Kimi ends the day in a points-scoring 10th place, having steered clear of mistakes and with a C4 WRC in immaculate condition.

"It's not been the easiest day I've spent in a rally car, but I was expecting this one to be tough right from the start," said the Red Bull driver. "There are a lot of good things too though: for a start we've had no mistakes and we've also had a good feeling with the pace notes all day, especially in the afternoon when we definitely felt more comfortable. The problem for me as usual is finding out how much grip there is and getting the right confidence with the car, but I think that this is normal for someone with my level of experience. Every rally and every stage is a different challenge: you just have to keep cool about it and keep learning, which is what I am doing. Tomorrow is another day and we're just going to carry on our work, with the aim of being at the finish. That's the most important thing."

It was the same message from co-driver Kaj Lindstrom, another man enjoying his trip to Japan but still learning the full functionality of the local toilets. "Everything's been under control all day, which is how we like it," Kaj said. "We had a set-up that was a bit too soft in the morning and that didn't help our confidence, but after we made some changes it was a lot better. We're looking forward to a good day tomorrow."

Another eight tough stages are waiting for the Red Bull crew of Kimi and Kaj in the morning, but the good news is that they have a reasonably civilised start, as the first service is not until 0900 and the first stage does not start until 1028. So there's plenty of time for some octopus for breakfast: another speciality of Japan.

-source: red bull

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