Kimi finishes rally de Portugal in the points
"I’ve really enjoyed the experience of driving here"
Portugal is well known as a land of exploration and discovery. Back in 1497, Portuguese adventurer Vasco da Gama was the first person to sail from Europe, all the way around Africa, to India. Most people thought that this was impossible, because at the time they assumed that the Indian Ocean was not connected to any other sea: effectively making it a very large lake.
But Vasco was not put off. He survived mishaps including attacks from pirates, aggression from hostile locals, and the outbreak of a tropical disease on his ship. When he returned he was treated as a hero and given the title of ’Admiral of the Indian Seas’.
Compared to these trials, Kimi Raikkonen didn’t face quite so many problems on the Rally de Portugal. But the Red Bull driver still found it one of the most challenging motorsport events he has ever contested. Despite competing against drivers with vastly superior experience, the Finn still brought his Citroen C4 WRC home in the points - having set third-fastest time on the final superspecial stage.
"It’s been a really tough weekend, but this is all part of the learning process," said Kimi, who lost time with a handling imbalance and a puncture on the final day. "The other drivers have been here for the past three years so it’s hard to be on their pace. My only objective though was to finish the rally and gain more experience, so we have fulfilled our goal here. The last day was particularly difficult, as the handling of the car did not feel right, so we decided to play it safe and make sure of a finish. Then we hit something on the side of the road just after the start of the first stage in the afternoon and that gave us a puncture, which cost us a lot of time. I’ve really enjoyed the experience of driving here though: this was actually the first time I have ever been to Portugal and it is a really nice country, with very friendly people."
The man with the awesome responsibility of guiding the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion through the stages of the WRC this year is his co-driver Kaj Lindstrom. Having not competed on a rally for over a month, Kimi and Kaj - fearless explorers of the limits, just like Vasco de Gama - worked hard on refining their pace notes over the course of the three-day event, with excellent results.
"Like everything else, they are getting better all the time," said Kaj. "We changed a couple of things and increased our experience in a few vital areas. With changing levels of grip and so many blind corners, it’s really not been easy for Kimi but he’s kept his cool throughout the rally and made a lot of progress. I’ve been really impressed with both his driving and his attitude."
After leaving the dusty gravel stages of Portugal behind, Kimi now heads for a totally different experience next weekend. The iceman will take on Polish bike star Taddy Blazusiak on the fearsome Erzberg hillclimb course in Austria. Blazusiak will be on his trials bike whereas Kimi will be racing him in the Red Bull-liveried Citroen C4 WRC.
It couldn’t be more different from the Formula One circuits of the world that Kimi used to race on. But the iceman loves a challenge, and there’s plenty more to come from him...
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