Kimi Raikkonen has admitted that he is looking forward to this weekend's Rallye de France, comparing the thought of piloting a full-bore Citroen
C4 WRC around the hills of Alsace to racing for Ferrari at the Maranello's spiritual home in Monza.
Buoyed by his first rally win, on last weekend's Rallye Vosgien, the Finn reports that he is feeling more comfortable with the car and the demands of a WRC weekend, but admits that, despite having one of the best cars in the event, there are still a lot of unknowns ahead as the French event switches from its familiar home in Corsica to embrace the area beloved of multiple champion - and Citroen
team-mate - Sebastien Loeb.
After showing great pace on the last all-new round of the World Rally Championship, in Bulgaria, the 2007 F1 world champion is hoping to demonstrate just what he is capable of on the surface that he is most familiar - or least unfamiliar - even if he understands that beating Loeb, who stands poised on the brink of an unprecedented seventh world drivers' title, is nigh-on impossible unless he can end the Frenchman's six-year unbeaten run on asphalt.
"It's not easy, that's for sure," Raikkonen conceded, as he approaches just his tenth WRC event in the C4, "But I'm hoping that we can have a good result in France. If we can show the same sort of pace like we did in Bulgaria, in the top five, then that would be really good.
"The problem is that it's always hard to predict a result when you don't know anything about what the route is going to be like, so we'll just concentrate very hard on the recce to end up with the best set of pace notes possible. Generally, we've improved in every area since the start of the season and I feel a lot more comfortable now, so we're hoping to continue our progress this weekend. France is obviously a really important event for Citroen, so I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun - a bit like driving for Ferrari at Monza!"
Co-driver Kaj Lindstrom, who has sat alongside Raikkonen since the Finn made his world rally debut in a Super 2000 car on the Rally Finland last year, is also looking forward to the weekend, although he's not expecting a French revolution.
"We're learning step by step, and I think sometimes people forget that this is only Kimi's first year in rallying and that nobody has ever walked straight into the very top level to compete against the very best with no experience before," he reasoned, "Kimi's been doing very well, and I'm sure that he can improve again in France. Asphalt is obviously a surface that he knows a bit better and, between us, we'll be working on putting together a good set of pace notes during the recce so that he can make the most of his talent on the stages."
Raikkonen may need to make the most of this weekend's outing, however, as, with his future at Citroen
uncertain beyond the end of the season, he may not find himself able to use the Monza comparison again. The Finn has been linked to a possible switch to either the new Prodrive-run Mini team, or the Monster Ford squad, for 2011, but has also made enquiries about a possible return to F1 with Renault.