Raikkonen embarks on his portuguese adventure
Red Bull Rally de Portugal day two report
The tourist resorts around Faro, according to some people, resemble a Garden of Eden. There is field after field of lush green grass, interrupted only by the occasional strip of sand and deep hole.
The reason for this unusual topography is that Faro is a Mecca for golf players. They come from all over the world, dressed up in pastel jumpers, bright white shorts, and shoes that look like they were borrowed from a gangster in 1940s Chicago.
Kimi Raikkonen and his co-driver Kaj Lindstrom, Red Bull athletes on the World Rally Championship this year, are also keen golfers. But the only handicap they faced today were the tough gravel stages of the Rally de Portugal: a classic but incredibly demanding event on the World Rally Championship calendar.
Having not competed for over a month, Kimi chose to make a careful start to get used to the particularly tricky conditions. Even though it is against the genetic nature of most rally drivers, this sensible approach paid off and Kimi was rewarded with a provisional place in the points at the overnight halt. His firm aim is to get to the end, so it was a perfect start. Now, he just has to keep it all going for the next two days.
"From the beginning, my idea was to get to the finish of today without any problems," said the ’iceman’. "We didn’t push so hard and we did everything we needed to do. It’s still very tough for me as I’m just starting out in rallying so it’s important to be sure of getting plenty of kilometres. Probably the most difficult thing about today is that the grip has been changing a lot, and so it helped when we were able to do the stages again in the afternoon. We also changed the suspension set-up at midday, going a bit stiffer. It was basically OK for the first day, but I still need to get some more speed. I didn’t have so much confidence in the morning but it was definitely better in the afternoon."
Kimi’s co-driver Kaj Lindstrom has years of experience of controlling excited drivers: a skill that proved to be very useful on the undulating gravel roads close to Faro.
"The afternoon was better than the morning," said Kaj. "We found a lot of improvement and the driving confidence was there, which was good. We made some small changes to the pace notes but nothing massive. Kimi handled everything well."
However, the Portuguese adventure is only just beginning - because the experienced Kaj had some words of warning about what to expect over the next two days and 11 stages. Hot temperatures are predicted over the weekend, which only add to the challenge.
"The stages we did today were actually the easiest of the whole rally," said the man who sits in the navigator’s seat. "It’s going to get more and more difficult on Saturday and Sunday, so the really hard part is still to come!"
A final word about golf. Most golfers in the resorts around Faro are male, with comparatively few women out on the courses. One theory is that the name of the game stands for ’gentlemen only, ladies forbidden.’
This is pure fiction One look at the male golfers near Faro is enough to tell that not all of them are gentlemen. With the notable exception of Kimi and Kaj of course.
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