Kimi Räikkönen’s world rally debut in his Citroën C4 got off to an adventurous start in Sweden, with the Finn showing breathtaking pace but also his inexperience on what was only his sixth-ever rally of any description.
Räikkönen finished 29th overall on the WRC season-opener, after losing half an hour on the opening day when he got stuck in a snowbank following a half spin. But had it not been for that and a smaller error on the final day, he would have finished eighth overall and scored points on his debut.
To put that into context, Sébastien Loeb could only manage ninth overall on his first outing in a World Rally Car, a Toyota Corolla in the 2000 Tour de Corse – and that was after several seasons of rallying at national level.
The highlight of Räikkönen’s Rally Sweden was a sixth-fastest time on the 18.14-kilometre Fredriksberg stage, where he beat 2003 champion Petter Solberg in an identical C4 WRC. The low point was when he had to dig his car out of the snow on stage six.
“There’s a lot for me to learn but it’s definitely coming,” said Räikkönen. “The biggest difficulty is the pace notes, which are totally new to me. Also, I have to understand more about how to set up the car. But I’m enjoying myself; we are getting there.”
Some insight into Räikkönen’s struggle to adapt to pace notes was provided by the Finn’s personal trainer, Mark Arnell, who revealed that even in F1 he disliked receiving radio transmissions. “He always felt they got in the way,” said Arnell, who joined Räikkönen in 2002 at McLaren. “His view was just ‘shut up and let me drive’. So I can see how he’d find pace notes the biggest challenge.” Anthony Peacock