The rally season got kicked into action again in chilly Sweden. It was only a few weeks ago we were wondering if Kimi would even drive this year. The blow to him and his family of losing his father so suddenly during christmas is certain to have made a big impact on Kimi. As someone said, if there were no Matti and his determination we would not know the name of Kimi Raikkonen at all. His dad is the one who made Kimis rise to the very top possible and I know that he would want Kimi to continue doing what he loves. And so it seems he is. With his all new private team of Ice One Racing.
What I particularly love about the livery on the car is the “Iceman” writing that is upside down on the back of the car. Now Kimi is a funny guy and I am absolutely certain that is done with a purpose. Why? Remember Helmut Markos snide remark last year about “its hard to read “Red Bull” upside down”? I think its an answer to that ridiculous comment. lol. Kimi, as always, you rock.
So he is renting the cars and equipment from Citroen. Basically keeping the same crew as last year. There are no real sponsors appearing on his car so it seems mostly funded by himself. He does have some personal sponsors that probably bring in a good chunk of what is needed for the 2011 season. Not that I have any qualified guess of how much. And Red Bull is still tied together with Kimi, judging from the gear he uses.
Anyway, Kimi has got a car and he is ready to go for at least 10 rallies this year so lets get it on 😉
Its not far into the weekend before we get our first scare. Kimi goes off into a snowbank on shakedown on Thursday. I mean, other drivers did too but we all remember Kimi shoveling snow from under the car last year. Dont want a repeat of that when its go time. The spectators that witnessed his excursion sure sound like it is the greatest thing that ever happened:
He is off to a cautious start on Friday. Sensible enough as conditions were very tricky. Underlined by Loeb himself being only 9th after the first day. Kimi has a small spin and a puncture and is down in 11th at the end of the day. Best stage was SS7 with an 8th best time.
Saturday goes far better for our Kimster. He is consistently 8th in the morning stages, easily distancing himself to his nearest rival from last year, Matthew Wilson. When the afternoon stages kicks off with SS13 (where I was present:), he gets the 5th fastest time. Fantastic job. In the meantime, poor Henning Solberg rolled his car in the morning. Luckily they were both unharmed. It looked pretty scary though:
Second half of Saturday starts with the second run through Sågen, SS13. I was right at the start of that stage. And even though I am a Ford man, the DS3 is for me the best looking car by far. And the factory Citroens have a cracking livery that looks fantastic up close. Kimis car just looks menacing with its pitch black wheels and tribal-like decorations.
Anyway, we sat right by the roadside, perhaps 300 meters from the start. A great spot where we sat so close that I got hit by small chunks of ice and frozen dirt that the studs kicked up as they flew by. Sweetness! 😀
Anxiously we waited for Kimi to start and then he finally came around the bend going completely flat out. It was a sight to behold even if it was shortlived. We watched a couple more guys including Block before we had to rush to Värmullsåsen for SS15.
Its a popular place so I didnt get as good a spot as last year since we were a bit late, but was still able to see pretty well. The sun had set and there was a mist in the air as Kimi blasted into the skiing arena accompanied by loud cheers. Especially from the crowd of Finns that we found ourselves in the middle of. I only got to watch him these two stages but I do think he looked a lot more poised and controlled than what I remember from last year. The DS3 is nimble with its shorter wheelbase and requires a lot more car feel than the bigger C4 and I think this is playing into Kimis hands. Later we learned that he had set the 5th and 4th fastest times on the stages we saw. To me that is impressive, even if a couple of cars played a little tactics on SS15.
I put a little bit of footage together here. And I included Blocks run past us on SS13. Interesting to compare these two. I dont know how well it shows on the footage I filmed but Ken and a couple of others had to lift slightly at places whereas Kimi pretty much kept his foot down. I guess rally is all about knowing when you can keep your foot down and when you cant:
Sunday seemed to be all about controlling the times and bringing home some good points for Kimi. He had about 3 minutes down to Matthew Wilson and was close to PG Andersson in 7th. But PG was very impressive at times this weekend and I am sure he would have fought for a podium if not for his puncture and roll on the first day. He did say that he was now just going as fast as he could and if he ended up on the roof he didnt really care. I guess Kimi was sensible in not going there. He got a couple of good times in though. A 6th and a 7th on the final stage. The Power Stage. See Kimis run here:
The Power Stage is something new for this year. The guy that wins it gets 3 points. 2nd, gets 2 points and 3rd gets 1 point. It was introduced to give the drivers something to fight for to the end. Its a brilliant idea as we had seen some dull Sundays at times if the rally was pretty much decided on Saturday due to large gaps between the leaders. Now the spectators get some added excitement right to the finish. I loved it.
What blew my mind was seeing Chris Patterson in the drivers seat of Petters car! Umm, what?! It looked so painfully slow. I was just laughing my head off wondering what the heck Solberg was up to now. And the commentators just started coming up with all kinds of conspiracy theories as to why this was going on. Like Citroen had told him to let Ogier by and he was now demonstrating his disagreement. As it turned out, he had lost his driving licence on Friday for speeding. He had been allowed to drive for 48 hours after that and time was up. If you didnt see it yet, catch it here:
So Sebastian Ogier became the winner of the very first power stage. But Mikko Hirvonen is crowned the winner of the Swedish rally for the second year in a row. And now in a Fiesta WRC. Well done. It was Mikkos only win last year. Now I cant wait to see how competitive the Fords are on gravel.
A quick mention of Mads Østberg is also in order. 2nd place is outstanding for the 23 year old. Im very interested to see how competitive that he is on gravel.
Kimi did so well in this rally. A respectable 8th position in a very difficult rally. Remember that he finished in 29th last year after he had some excursions into the snow bank. He kept it very clean with only minor mistakes and people in the know are really hailing his progress. Its a shame we wont get to see him compete in Mexico. But we will look to Portugal at the end of March where the Iceman and the Ice One team is on the road again.
Until then, stay frosty.
Watermarked photos by www.octanephotos.co.uk under licence.
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P.S. Dont miss Kingas great video recap of the rally!