Former Ferrari and McLaren F1 man Kimi Raikkonen will take in his first WRC event on asphalt this weekend and the Finn is looking forward to once again competing on tarmac.
Raikkonen, who only started rallying last year and who took his third points finish in succession in Portugal back in May, prior to the WRC's summer break, entered the Rally della Lanterna recently in preparation for this event.
He finished second there to his Citroen
Junior team-mate, Sebastien Ogier
and while he has also been testing on the 'black stuff' with his Citroen
C4 WRC, his main aim is once again to get to the finish.
"Now we start a new chapter. After snow and gravel, here we are on asphalt. It's something that I'm really looking forward to. I had a really good feeling during the tests and I hope to be able to show that on the roads in Bulgaria," Raikkonen said.
"It's certainly going to be a very different type of playing field, and that is one of the things I like most about rallying. The flip side of this is that rallying is a very hard sport for anybody new to it. This first asphalt rally of the season will be a very important part of my learning process in the WRC. I've realised that it vital to pick things up as you go along and not try to run before you can walk. My objective is to get to the finish and completely understand my Citroen
C4 WRC. We'll see where we are at the end of the first day and then try to close the gap to our rivals."
Having won the F1 title in 2007, as well as having won 18 F1 races and having claimed 62 F1 podiums, Raikkonen already knows a thing or two about driving quickly on sealed surfaces. However, that won't help him much in Bulgaria, as he is all too aware.
"It's so different: it's a bit like saying that if you can drive on the normal road okay, then you can drive in F1!" Raikkonen explained. "Rallying and racing is so far apart that the biggest difference is not just the surface. Instead it's the style of driving and the way that you work with the car. There is one thing in common, which is that you use a steering wheel for both. I can't think of many other things to be honest. But I am looking forward to the weekend and asphalt should be a bit more normal for me."
Or maybe that should be 'less abnormal' - because Bulgaria will still only be Raikkonen's sixth WRC event in his Citroen
C4 WRC and his very first on asphalt. Testing and a practice rally in Italy (which Raikkonen led) have gone very well. Now it's time for a giant leap into the unknown and some stiff competition on super-fast roads.
As always, experienced co-driver Kaj Lindstrom has some words of wisdom for his chauffeur: "We're starting again from scratch here and while testing has gone really well, you never know where you are until you get to the rally," Lindstrom warned.
"I actually did an asphalt rally last year with Kimi in a Super 2000 car, and it was clear straight away that he's got a great feeling with this surface. But I don't think Bulgaria will be a typical asphalt rally. We're going to need to do a good job making pace notes in the recce, and that is what we are concentrating on for now."