Kimi Raikkonen will return to the scene of one of his best F1 victories this weekend for the latest round of the World Rally Championship season.
Raikkonen took victory in the Japanese Grand Prix back in 2005 having started from 17th on the grid following a wet qualifying session, with the Finn now set to swap the tarmac of Suzuka for the gravel rally stages around the Rally Japan base in Sapporo.
While his F1 outings on Japanese soil have seen Raikkonen fighting for victory, his aim for the weekend ahead will be to bring his Citroen
Junior Team C4 successfully to the finish of one of the more challenging events on the calendar.
"It's certainly going to be very different to the Japanese Grand Prix, which is my only other experience of Japan!" he said. "We've got to be really careful here: it sounds so easy to make a mistake, and also the grip level is meant to be quite inconsistent - which is not an easy thing to get used to, particularly when you come from a circuit racing background.
“When we won the Japanese Grand Prix in 2005 it was certainly tough, but there's no doubt that this is going to be even tougher. Apart from that I don't really know what to expect, so our priority is to get to the end. When you have rallies that are as specialised as this one, it becomes even more important to have experience of the roads."
Raikkonen's co-driver Kaj Lindstrom doesn't have extensive experience of the Japanese stages having contested the event just one himself and he admitted that the weekend wouldn't be easy.
“I think this is going to be one of the most difficult rallies that we face all year," he said. "It's also a great opportunity for us though to build on the work that we've done with the pace notes, which have to be absolutely exact in Japan. Getting the notes right is always one of the hardest things for any racing driver to get used to and Kimi has been doing really well.
“On the last rally we set our first fastest stage time together, so it's a good sign that things are moving in the right direction."