KIMI RETURNS TO THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN The place: Japan. The year: 2005. The Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, nearly 1000 kilometres south of Rally Japan's base in Sapporo, was once the scene of one of Kimi Raikkonen's most breath-taking...
KIMI RETURNS TO THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN
The place: Japan. The year: 2005. The Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, nearly 1000 kilometres south of Rally Japan's base in Sapporo, was once the scene of one of Kimi Raikkonen's most breath-taking Formula One victories.
After a wet qualifying session, Kimi started the race from 17th on the grid. He then worked his spectacular way through the field to overtake the leader on the final lap. It was just like Days of Thunder.
Kimi is going to need another Hollywood-style performance this weekend in Japan now that he has switched to rallying, but he is realistic enough to know that there will be no fairytale victory this time. In fact, just getting to the end of the notoriously tough and specialised stages of Rally Japan will be a triumph in itself.
The challenge is enormous: there will be mud and slippery braking areas, over roads so fast and narrow that no mistake goes unpunished. For an absolute beginner - and this will only be Kimi's ninth WRC event in the Red Bull Citroen C4 WRC - Japan is one of the hardest rallies to master. The weather rarely helps: after all, the island of Hokkaido is a skiing area that is on the same latitude as Siberia. Sunglasses probably won't be necessary this weekend.
"It's certainly going to be very different to the Japanese Grand Prix, which is my only other experience of Japan!" said Kimi. "We've got to be really careful here: it sounds so easy to make a mistake, and also the grip level is meant to be quite inconsistent - which is not an easy thing to get used to, particularly when you come from a circuit racing background. When we won the Japanese Grand Prix in 2005 it was certainly tough, but there's no doubt that this is going to be even tougher. Apart from that I don't really know what to expect, so our priority is to get to the end. When you have rallies that are as specialised as this one, it becomes even more important to have experience of the roads."
Precision is the name of the game in Japan, and one person who can certainly help Kimi with this is the man sat alongside him: co-driver Kaj Lindstrom. Kaj has competed on Rally Japan just once before, but he is aiming to make sure that none of his slickly delivered pace notes get lost in translation on the stages around Sapporo.
"I think this is going to be one of the most difficult rallies that we face all year," said Kaj. "It's also a great opportunity for us though to build on the work that we've done with the pace notes, which have to be absolutely exact in Japan. Getting the notes right is always one of the hardest things for any racing driver to get used to and Kimi has been doing really well. On the last rally we set our first fastest stage time together, so it's a good sign that things are moving in the right direction."
The action for Kimi on Rally Japan already gets underway tomorrow night (Tuesday) when he will race an electric go-kart capable of 130kph at a Red Bull event in the Sapporo Dome, which hosted the football World Cup back in 2002. Now the famous Dome is home to Sapporo's football team, as well as the unusually named Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters baseball squad...
-source: red bull