Kimi Raikkonen's co-driver in the 2011 World Rally Championship has forecast that there is 'plenty more to come' from the former F1 World Champion over the second half of the campaign – even if both men anticipate a tough time of things ahead of them on Rallye Deutschland.
Having missed out on a points-scoring finish in front of his adoring home fans when he wound up a delayed 25th on Rally Finland earlier this month, Raikkonen is now preparing to take on some of the most challenging asphalt stages on the WRC calendar.
Particularly demanding will be the section that runs through the Baumholder military area on day two, comprising long stages made up of concrete roads that were previously used for testing tanks. By the side of the road are huge stone blocks known as hinkelsteins
, originally designed for preventing the tanks from going off the road but not what Raikkonen and co-driver Kaj Lindström will want to hit in their Citroën Junior Team C4 WRC this weekend.
“This will be another new rally for me and I don't know exactly what the German stages will be like, but I know that they will be very different to Bulgaria,” acknowledged the 18-time grand prix-winner, alluding to his encouraging performance on asphalt last month. “On my first asphalt rally with the Citroën C4 WRC, I had a good feeling immediately.
“The most important thing is for me to get used to driving a WRC car on this surface. From my past experience I can say that I find driving on asphalt a bit more natural, but driving a rally car is still a completely different thing to any form of circuit racing. In racing, the surface of one circuit is not massively different to the surface of another, although there are some small changes. In rallying, the difference is huge on every event.
“There is so much variety on a rally – every kilometre and every corner is different. That's why experience is so important in this sport. I just need to keep on building up my knowledge; I will try my best in Germany, but I really need to make sure that I am there at the finish so that I can learn all about this event. Everyone tells me that the stages are quite complicated so we will have to be careful, especially if it is raining.”
Lindström, at least, does have some experience of the stages that run along the shores of the Moselle River from two previous starts on the event alongside multiple World Rally Champion Tommi Mäkinen, and the man who has sat alongside Raikkonen ever since his compatriot made his rallying debut concedes that he has been marked by the 30-year-old's form thus far.
“This is only going to be Kimi's second world championship asphalt rally, and just his ninth WRC event,” he stressed. “Germany is not going to be an easy one, but our performance in Bulgaria – on our first asphalt rally – was the most impressive we have put in since the start of the season and we continued making progress in Finland.
“I'm really pleased by the way that Kimi has come so far in an extremely short space of time – nobody has rallied at this level before with so little experience, and that's a great achievement. For me, the most important thing in Germany is that we continue learning, work hard on our pace notes and try to get a solid result. We're making progress on each rally. It's all about getting the experience, and I know that there is still plenty more to come from Kimi.”
“Everyone in the team has very good memories of our trip to Bulgaria,” concluded team manager Benoît Nogier. “Kimi, who had so much to learn this year, showed just what he is capable of on his first asphalt world championship rally. However, Rally Bulgaria was new for everyone. In Germany, we will be up against drivers with plenty of experience of the terrain, so the objective we have fixed is not to make any mistakes. I'm sure that our C4 WRCs are capable of some excellent results.”