It seems only yesterday when I trodded through the middle of the Swedish forests at 7 in the morning on my way to SS9. It was 25 below zero and I had ice forming in my eyebrows and in my nostrils and I started wondering what the heck I was doing there. Just a few months earlier I had my numbered seat in Monza in glorious sunshine as I watched Kimi take his last podium in Formula 1. Now I was witnessing Kimi make history. An F1 world champion making a debut and a full season in rally. It was unheard of and it was being paid in full by Ferrari and Santander. A perfect opportunity for Kimi to follow his dream. Naturally, as a fan, I followed after. And I was freezing my ass off.
Turns out I had a great time. Kimi did have a difficult rally in Sweden, but he completed it. After that, came 11 rallies (10 for Kimi as he didnt compete in NZ) before we came to seasons end in Wales. As we know there has been a lot of ups and downs.
Yes, it was frickin’ cold.
But Kimi is a rookie. He is testing to see where the limits are. Sometimes he found them when he wasnt even looking for them. That was to be expected.
The highpoint was his 5th place in Turkey. He brought it home well in the points when several others didnt. The biggest disappointment has to be his crash in shakedown in Spain. The rollcage on the C4 got damaged and he could not even start the rally. This was his chance to shine on tarmac but it was not to be. Needless to say, he went to Wales with a clear goal of bringing the car home without incidents.
Kimi starts off very cautiously. He usually does this and then picks up speed throughout the day. This was not the case here. His pace was setting no records. Still, he sets an 8th best time on both of the Sweet Lamb runs. His usual rival Matthew Wilson is in well known territory here and already has over a 1 minute lead on Kimi after day 1. Some nice shots of Kimi here. Thanks to the poster:
Interview with Kimi after day 1. Very tricky conditions as you can see:
Ogiers off on SS8 bumps Kimi up to 9th overall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-L4KPQrbi4
Kimi puts in a couple of 7th fastest times on 3 of the stages on Saturday. He is not pushing at all but is at least able to keep Ken Block and Quassimi well behind him. It emerges at the end of the day that Kimi has driven with a broken damper since morning. His and Kajs performance gets another thumbs up in that light. Whats more is that he climbs another place to 8th after Mads Østberg is unlucky and has a puncture on SS15.
As you can see in this clip, some of the stages towards the evening were driven in the dark. This is SS16 where he got the 4th fastest time:
4 stages to go and Kimi has completed his first rally season. There are not too many fireworks to be honest as he has about 2 minutes up to Wilson and 2 minutes down to Østberg. Its all about bringing it home in a respectable 8th place and thus securing third for the Citroen junior team. And he does it! Kimi got 25 points in his first season and is 10th overall in the championship. It could have gone much better if not for a couple of unfortunate incidents and crashes. But as I said earlier, its all about learning. Kaj has been a rock for Kimi all year and my deepest gratitude go out to him. He kept his calm when even the Iceman himself went off the handle 😉 They are a very good pair and now that Kimi has ruled out F1 – at least for next year – I hope they get to ride together in 2011.
We already congratulated Loeb on his championship. And not surprisingly, he took the victory here as well. Its all getting a bit ho-hum, isnt it. But that should not detract from his incredible talent. I hope to see a more tightly fought championship next year though 😉
So – many months have passed and we still dont know for sure what Kimi is gonna do next year. You can hear him talking a little bit about Rally Wales and his future in this interview after Day 3:
The problem is that Citroen wants him in the junior team again but is in need of funding. Kimi is not on the level of Hirvonen or Ogier so that is understandable. Even Petter Solberg who is a world champion has to find funding. Which is an outrage and a sign of the state the sport is in, if you ask me. Lets hope that all the rule changes and newer and cheaper cars can start to turn this around.
As I am writing this, I know not of anything solid in the cards for Kimi. He has clearly stated that his preferred option is to stay in rallying for next year. Sooner or later we will find out. That much is certain. Since it is his wish, I hope he will find a good rally seat for 2011. I suppose it will then be a year where he will really see and decide if rally is what he really wants to bet on. So he has to improve a lot. If not, then I guess the door will still be open in F1 for him. But he would have to send the Robertsons to work at midseason at the latest to try and find a good seat. I can imagine that there will be a Red Bull and most likely a Mercedes seat up for grabs. Possibly a McLaren seat too if Button continues his downward curve. But these things are all way into the future. Lets just enjoy the here and now and congratulate Kimi on a well rounded season as a rally rookie. Go Kimi Go!!
P.S. Im looking forward to freezing my ass off in Sweden again. Only 3 months to go..
Here is Kingas highlight video of the Rally GB: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4ApvnybP6c
And for 2010: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ypw-KniOEO4
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