Former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen's official rallying debut for the Citroën Junior World Rally Team on the 2010 Arctic Lapland Rally did not last long as he crashed out on the opening day – but his pace nevertheless hinted that the Finn could be a genuine threat for the front-running positions when he enters the World Rally Championship (WRC) full-time next month.
Raikkonen was running a highly-competitive second to Citroën team-mate Dani Sordo on his second outing in the annual two-day event – the curtain-raiser for the Finnish Rally Championship, and a rally on which the 18-time grand prix-winner had finished 13th on his bow in the sport twelve months earlier in a Fiat Abarth Grande Punto S2000 – when his car left the road and hit a tree during the 23km-long second stage Aittajärvi, in snowy conditions and temperatures reaching as low as minus 20°Celsius.
Whilst both the 30-year-old and co-driver Kaj Lindström were thankfully unhurt in the impact, the pair's C4 WRC sustained damage to its front right-hand corner. A 15-minute delay whilst the car was rescued from the snowdrift with the aid of spectators – allied to 20 minutes of penalties – destroyed Raikkonen's challenge, after he had impressed on stage one by trailing leader Sordo by a mere 5.5 seconds.
Citroën is treating the Arctic Rally as a glorified test session ahead of the first round of the 2010 WRC campaign, Rally Sweden, which will get underway in just under a fortnight's time on 11 February.
Meanwhile, Robert Kubica
has revealed that he has put a temporary stop to his own rallying adventures, after competing in a handful of events late last year and the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally earlier this month, on which his engine unfortunately let go just four kilometres in. The Pole explained that he intends to dedicate himself entirely to his new challenge at Renault
F1, for whom he will begin testing in earnest at Valencia next week – and that rallying will consequently have to wait.