Da Autosprint n.50 del 14/12/2010
Tricky season, but great fun
Well, the rally season 2010 is over. It was a tough year. Trying to learn the WRC car and eleven completely new rallies during the season was a huge challenge for a rookie like me. But it was a great fun, too.
I liked the new experience very much, indeed. It was as difficult as we could expect, but I have all but negative feelings going though it.
It was a season full of ups and downs. There were some good times, there were some bad times. But that’s how it usually goes in the world of motor sports. Obviously, there were some people expecting us to make miracles after a couple of first rallies. But, in the end of the day, there was no reason to wait for more from this rookie season of mine.
We finished the last rally in Wales. It feels good every time you finish a race. The Rally of Britain was a truly challenging one. We’ve got storm, rain, ice-slippery roads, no sight ahead from time to time. It was an adventure and to finish it with some points was a nice finish for this WRC season.
It was also the end of an era for these WRC cars. They are really great cars and it was a privilege to have a season with them, too.
Obviously, the season offered many different kind of rally roads. The tarmac doesn’t mean tarmac like it is in Formula One. It’s only semi-tarmac every time, while there is so much gravel and dirt on the road. Coming in as from circuit racing the only real asphalts were those short show stages in the cities.
The RedBull Citroen WRC team keeps winning the championships. They are true professionals in and out. You have to give the highest note for them every time for their effort.
Now it’s time for a break. I chill out with friends and my family like I usually do in this time of the year. I’ll keep training and keep having fun in motor racing. The Christmas time is coming and I plan to spend that peaceful period at home, like always.
For the next year we continue talking to people. When we have something signed and sealed, we tell you.
Thank you all fans for the support and wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The race goes on 2011.
CITROËN JUNIOR TEAM IN SPAIN 2010 – A PREVIEW
The Citroën Junior Team starts round 12 of the season with two objectives: sealing third place in the World Rally Championship for manufacturers and allowing Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia to defend their second place in the drivers’ standings. In the team’s second Citroën C4 WRC Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström will also be aiming to make their mark on Catalan asphalt.
Mixed-surface events are gradually coming back to the FIA World Rally Championship. After one day of the 2009 Cyprus Rally that was held on asphalt and a Rally of Turkey this year that mixed some asphalt sections on an all-gravel route, the Spanish round of the World Championship also brings a new dimension to the end of the year.
On Friday, the crews will face a stage that is 100% gravel (SS2/5 La Ribera d’Ebre) and two mixed surface stages. The first stage of the loop, Terra Alta (35.94 km) is 73% gravel. The final stage, Les Garrigues (17.28 km) is split equally between sealed and loose surfaces.
The two Citroën C4 WRCs will be in gravel configuration on the first day, but will be put into full asphalt specification for Saturday and Sunday during a long service halt (1h15m) on Friday evening.
Citroën Junior Team manager Benoit Nogier commented: “There’s going to be a lot of work to convert our Citroën C4 WRCs from gravel to asphalt specification. We’ve prepared for this service halt especially so that we can be both quick and efficient. The team will be embarking on two 75-minute sessions, which in theory gives us enough time to do everything we need to do…as long as all goes according to plan.”
The two Citroën Junior Team crews each spent a day testing in the south of France in order to prepare for the penultimate round of the season.
Sébastien Ogier reported : “The roads were damp. It wasn’t ideal for us to work on the set-up but it was really important to get the kilometres in for both myself and Kimi, who was asking me a lot of questions so that we could compare our impressions.”
“It’s another step into the unknown,” added Kimi. “I don’t really know if our start position will be a help or a disadvantage. On the gravel, we will maybe have a clean line to help us but the asphalt sections might be very dirty. It will be vital for us to come out of the first day without making any mistakes so that we are in a good position for the rest of the rally.”
Three questions to… Kimi Räikkönen
Let’s go back to the Rallye de France-Alsace. Why did you call it a day on Saturday night?
“We start each rally with the aim of learning and taking away as much experience as we can. In Alsace, I learned a lot once more. I felt comfortable in the quick parts but I struggled in some of the slower corners. There was so much mud on the road that it hardly looked like an asphalt rally any more. It was a useful experience, but there was no point in continuing like that under these conditions. I wouldn’t have learned anything more on the final day. The best decision was to save the car for the Rally of Spain.”
Have you got any particular ambitions for Spain?
“Since the start of the season I’ve heard that this rally would be the one that suits my driving style most. The stages are quick and quite wide. It’s the place where rallying comes closest to racing, so the drivers all have to concentrate hard on their lines. However, it’s also a rally that everyone knows very well. Obviously I’m going to have quite a disadvantage in terms of experience. My objective is to be as close as I can to the top six, maybe a bit closer than I was at the start of the rally in France.”
The first day of the rally will take place on both gravel and asphalt. Are you worried about these surface changes?
“I’m learning all the rallies this season and each event has its own individual characteristics. On the recce, I come across new things all the time that I just have to get used to. Part of the game is to know how to deal with all these different things. On the World Championship you go from gravel to asphalt and asphalt to gravel several times over the course of a season. This time, it will all happen in the space of the same stage. So let’s just see what happens on Friday.”
Makinen sostiene l’impegno di Raikkonen
È stato uno dei movimenti che ha fatto sicuramente maggior scalpore nel corso dell’inverno: il passaggio di Kimi Raikkonen (fonte foto: Citroen Communication / McKlein)dalla Formula 1 al Mondiale WRC. Molti probabilmente, tenendo in considerazione le origini del pilota proveniente da una terra capace di sfornare campioni adatti agli sterrati, si sarebbero aspettati qualcosa in più nella stagione d’esordio da parte del pilota finlandese: invece finora l’unico piazzamento degno di nota, con un team di buon livello come la Citroen Junior grazie all’appoggio della Red Bull, è il quinto posto ottenuto al Rally di Turchia, con una deludente 25° posizione nell’appuntamento proprio sulle strade di casa, complice un grave errore.
Tuttavia pretendere da Kimi un rendimento di alto livello in una categoria della quale non conosceva nulla o quasi è stato sicuramente azzardato. E l’ultima corsa, sebbene conclusa in una abbastanza anonima settima posizione, ha dimostrato come Il finlandese a poco a poco stia acquisendo dimestichezza, dal momento che è riuscito a vincere la sua prima prova speciale. Un anno di apprendistato dunque risulta assolutamente necessario per poter conoscere nei dettagli il funzionamento di queste vetture, oltre che scoprire i segreti nascosti in ogni rally.
Chi si erge a favore del proseguimento di questa esperienza non è certamente un uomo qualunque, ma il 4 volte Campione del Mondo dal 1996 al 1999 al volante della Mitsubishi Tommi Makinen: “Sarebbe ovviamente bello – ha dichiarato a Wrc.com proprio alla vigilia del rally tedesco – vederlo rimanere nel Mondiale Rally. Non ho discusso di questo con lui così non so cosa stia pensando al riguardo, ma lui in generale sembra essere felice. Kimi è il tipo di ragazzo che vuole avere successo e ottenere le migliori prestazioni da se stesso. Sono sicuro che è un tipo che non rinuncia. Questa è la mia idea perché mi sento abbastanza sicuro che lui non voglia abbandonare già i rally. Penso proprio rimarrà anche il prossimo anno”.
La sensazione che in questi mesi ha fornito l’ex Campione del Mondo di Formula 1 è quella di una certa indecisione a proposito del suo immediato futuro. Comunque Makinen ha poi sottolineato come sia rimasto ben impressionato dalla prova fornita da Raikkonen in Bulgaria: “Fece molto bene in quella prova e sono certo che non veda l’ora di cimentarsi nelle gare su asfalto. Dopo ciascun rally sta acquisendo sempre più esperienza lavorando assieme al suo copilota. Quello è il maggior problema per lui. È difficile comprendere la differenza (rispetto la Formula 1, ndr). Se stai guidando su un circuito ricordi ogni cosa, ti concentri solo su ogni curva e conosci esattamente dove stai andando. Sono sicuro lui possa fare molti buoni tempi mentre sta testando. Ma quando tu vai incontro alla competizione hai bisogno dell’esperienza. È tutta qua la differenza”.
Quesnel expects top fives from Raikkonen
Former Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen should be looking to finish in the top five on the next two rounds of the World Rally Championship, according to his team principal Olivier Quesnel.
The Finn, who was up to fourth on the first asphalt event of the year in Bulgaria, was seventh in Germany last week. But Quesnel defended Raikkonen saying the Trier-based event was harder to learn.
“Germany was not easy,” said Quesnel. “The surface is changing all of the time, it’s not so easy to come here for the first time. Don’t forget, in Bulgaria, it was everybody’s first time there. I think he will be faster in the next two [asphalt rounds]. France is new to everybody and Spain is a little bit more like the circuit. I think he will be in the top five on both of those rallies.”
Quesnel added that he hoped to retain Raikkonen for next season, but admitted it was anything but a foregone conclusion. Raikkonen is now thought to be in discussions with other WRC teams about 2011 and beyond.
“We want Kimi Raikkonen with us next year,” said Quesnel. “I don’t know if he comes. I didn’t speak with him yet, but we like him here and we want him to drive a Citroen again next year.”
Raikkonen has made no further comment on his future. The Finn insists he would like to remain in the WRC, but he refuses to close the door on a possible return to Formula One.
Citroen eager to retain Raikkonen
Citroen team principal Olivier Quesnel has reiterated his desire to keep Kimi Raikkonen in the firm’s Junior Team next season.
Contrary to speculation, Raikkonen’s deal has not been concluded with the Versailles-based squad for 2011 – with the former Ferrari Formula 1 driver reckoned to be in discussions with other teams for next season.
Quesnel said: “We like Kimi and we want him with us next year. We will be very pleased if he wants to stay with us.”
Asked if he had spoken with Raikkonen about next season, Quesnel said he had not discussed the future with the driver or with his management.
“I was in Germany for four days, but we did not talk about it,” Quesnel said. “I heard they wanted to talked about it, but we didn’t.”
Raikkonen is known to be keen to remain in the WRC next season. He said: “I have enjoyed the season so far and it would be good to stay to make the most of what I have learned, but nothing is confirmed at all.”
Having run fourth on the season’s first asphalt event in Bulgaria last month, Raikkonen could only manage seventh in Germany last week. Quesnel says he expects an upturn in pace for the remaining two asphalt rallies of the season in France and Spain.
“I think he can be in the top five on both of those events,” said Quesnel.
Ancora incerto il futuro di Räikkönen
Kimi Raikkonen non ha ancora chiarito i suoi piani per la prossima stagione e dalla Finlandia dove sta disputando un’altra prova del mondiale Rally rivela: “Non posso ancora darvi notizie sui miei piani futuri. Abbiamo alcune decisioni da prendere e non ho ancora fatto. Posso onestamente dirvi che ancora non so cosa farò”.
Recentemente la Citroen ha annunciato la riconferma di Sebastien Loeb e Sebastien Ogier ma non ha detto nulla in proposito di Raikkonen.
Sicuramente Kimi disputerà ancora un altro campionato nei rally ma le porte della Formula Uno non sono ancora del tutto chiuse per lui.
Di Raikkonen ha parlato anche il presidente della Fia Jean Todt che era presente in Finlandia: “Ho compreso la sua decisione di passare ai rally. Voleva una nuova sfida ed è stato molto coraggioso a prendere la strada dei rally. La Formula Uno è una pressione costante ed io capisco perché Kimi abbia voluto fare qualcos’altro. Ma vi posso dire che se il campione attuale Jenson Button o il prossimo campione del mondo dovessero scegliere di andare a correre nei rally, sono sicuro che non sarebbero allo stesso livello di Kimi nella loro prima stagione”.
Räikkönen è vicino alla conferma in Citroën
Anche per il 2011 pare che in Formula 1 non ci sia posto per Kimi Raikkonen, per questo pare abbastanza scontato che l’ex campione del mondo proseguirà la sua avventura nel Mondiale Rally anche nella prossima stagione.
Il finlandese era stato prima dato vicino alla Red Bull, dove sarebbe potuto subentrare a Mark Webber, che però poi ha posto la firma sul rinnovo con la squadra di Milton Keynes. Poi alla Renault, dove era stato designato come sostituto di Robert Kubica, qualora il polacco fosse emigrato alla Mercedes per prendere il posto di Michael Schumacher. Anche in questo caso niente di fatto però.
Lo spiraglio per la Formula 1 però rimane sempre aperto, visto che ora si vocifera che Kimi potrebbe legarsi a lungo termine con la Red Bull, assicurandosi un anno nei rally e magari un opzione per il 2012 in F.1.
"Non sento la mancanza della Formula 1 e mi piace molto quello che sto facendo ora" ha detto l’ex ferrarista in occasione del Rally di Bulgaria. "Non ho ancora deciso cosa farò l’anno prossimo, ma lo farò presto, probabilmente subito dopo il Rally di Finlandia".
Anche Olivier Quesnel, grande capo di Citroen Sport, è convinto che alla fine Kimi rimarrà nei rally: "Sono sicuro che andrà avanti. Penso che sia molto coinvolto nei rally e che voglia provare ad avere successo. Sarei felice se decidesse di rimanere. Ha corso solo un anno, ha bisogno di almeno un’altra stagione per mostrare il suo potenziale".
Inoltre Autosport riporta il commento di una fonte interna alla Red Bull, rimasta comunque anonima, che da quasi per certo il rinnovo: "Siamo felici di quello che Kimi è riuscito a fare quest’anno. E’ un personaggio che fa bene al marchio Red Bull e stiamo cercando di allungare il suo contratto. Penso che questo sia molto probabile".
Räikkönen set to stay in rallying
Kimi Raikkonen is set to commit to the World Rally Championship for a second season, reveals this week’s AUTOSPORT.
The 2007 Formula 1 world champion had been linked to a return to grand prix racing with Renault next year, but the Finn intends to stay in rallying for at least one more year.
Raikkonen is believed to be keen for his relationship with Red Bull in the long term, opening the door for a possible F1 return wuth the energy drink firm’s team in 2012.
"I don’t miss Formula 1 and I am enjoying what I am doing now," Raikkonen said at the Bulgarian round of the WRC last weekend.
"I have still not decided what I am doing next year yet. Soon I have to decide, maybe it will be just after Rally Finland."
A Red Bull source confirmed to AUTOSPORT that it is close to a deal with Raikkonen: "We are very happy with what Kimi has done this season. He is very good for the Red Bull brand and we are looking to extend his agreement into next year. I think this is likely."
Citroen Racing director Olivier Quesnel is confident that he will retain Raikkonen in 2011.
"I’m sure this will happen," he said. "For myself, he is really involved in rallying and he wants to succeed. I will be pleased if he will stay. he has done one year and he needs to do one more year to make sure."
Sebastien Loeb agrees that it would benefit Raikkonen to stay for at least a second year in the WRC.
"He should, because this year he is only learning," Loeb said. "He cannot be competitive this year and if he stops then he has lost this year. If he continues next year he will arrive on the rallies knowing where he is.
"He has the notes, he can modify them, which is much easier than this year when he had to make them all from the start. He will know better the stages in his head. He can improve a lot from this year to next year.
"Especially because we all change cars, so he will get in the new car and we will also. I’m sure he would have more chances to succeed next season."
Citroën trio quickest in Jordan Shakedown
Defending World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb was the fastest driver at the pre-event shakedown for the Jordan Rally earlier today, with fellow C4 World Rally Car drivers Petter Solberg and Dani Sordo locking out the top three times.
The four-hour test took place on a 2.3km stage, located 7.5km north of the Dead Sea Service Park. Weather conditions were dry and sunny throughout with a temperature peaking at 30 degrees Celsius.
Loeb drove the stage five times, setting his best time on the third pass, and matching it on the fourth. "Everything went okay, but the road wasn’t very representative of the ones we saw on the recce," Loeb told wrc.com. "Today’s road was fast and there was a lot of grip, while the proper stages are much more twisty and slippery. All we did today was check that everything was okay with the car."
Loeb’s team-mate Dani Sordo and Citroen privateer Petter Solberg set the same second-fastest time, one-tenth slower than Loeb. "We tried a lot of different things during the session because I haven’t done any testing before the rally," said Petter. "I expect conditions will be much looser on the rally but the main thing is that we’re up there with the best, and one tenth from Seb is nothing, you know?"
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen were fourth and fifth fastest.
After a ceremonial start in the historic city of Jerash on Thursday morning, the opening stage of the rally, the 15.34km Rumman Forest, gets underway on 1128hrs. Follow this link to find out how to follow the rally LIVE and FREE here on wrc.com.
Here are the Shakedown times of the WRC drivers:
1. LOEB. Citroen C4 WRC. 1:13.4
=2. SORDO. Citroen C4 WRC. 1:13.5
=2. P. SOLBERG. Citroen C4 WRC. 1:13.5
4. LATVALA. Ford Focus RS WRC 09. 1:13.7
5. HIRVONEN. Ford Focus RS WRC 09. 1:13.8
6. OGIER. Citroen C4 WRC. 1:13.9
7. VILLAGRA. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 1:15.1
8. WILSON. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 1:15.2
9. H.SOLBERG. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 1:15.3
10. RAIKKONEN. Citroen C4 WRC. 1:16.2