KIMI JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP 10 IN BULGARIAKimi Raikkonen
, Red Bull's fearless iceman and the 2007 Formula One World Champion, owes most of his success to a certain Edgar Purnell Hooley. In many ways, this important personality could be considered as the godfather of motorsport.
was walking along the road one day in 1901 when he saw some sticky tar spilt on the ground. Somebody had laid some gravel on it so that people could cross the puddle without getting their shoes dirty. The result was a remarkably strong, consistent and dust-free road surface. Hooley patented it the following year, under the name Tarmac.
Without him, there would be no racing circuits. Motorways would be made of loose gravel. And there would certainly not be any asphalt rallies. Bulgaria was the first of four asphalt events on the World Rally Championship this year, and it was also the very first time that Kimi tackled a WRC rally in a World Rally Car.
The results were astonishing. On his first day of competition, the iceman was fighting with the frontrunners. Right up until the final stage of the opening day, he was fourth overall after consistently setting top five stage times against vastly more experienced competitors.
Then there was a small indiscretion after Kimi went too fast into a right-hand corner on SS4, Belmeken Lake. Luckily the damage was just cosmetic, and thanks to a great job by the Citroen Junior Team mechanics Kimi was able to restart the second day under the super rally system, with a 10-minute penalty for missing the final stage of day one.
From that point on, Kimi was able to gain more experience at the wheel of his Citroen C4 WRC, which will be vital for the three remaining Tarmac rallies this year - courtesy of Mr Hooley - in Germany, France and Spain.
At the end of three tough days it was mission accomplished for Kimi, who finished 11th overall. Even on the final day he set two top-five stage times, underlining his commitment on what is still only his sixth World Championship rally.
"Some things were up and down but on the whole it was a good weekend," said Kimi at the finish in Borovets. "The most important thing was to get used to driving the rally car on asphalt, which is obviously a completely different experience to driving a Formula One car. I feel a bit more comfortable on asphalt than I do on gravel, but rallying is still a totally different sport compared to racing and we have a lot to learn. Bit by bit the feeling is coming though, and I actually liked a lot of the roads here in Bulgaria: they were quite flowing with a nice rhythm. Now we go back to gravel in Finland: it will be nice to compete at home again and also to come back to a rally that I know a bit already."
The experienced Kaj Lindstrom, who used to partner four-time World Rally Champion Tommi Makinen, added: "This was certainly our best performance of the year in terms of speed, but there is plenty more to come. If we had not had the problem on Friday then we would have been fourth and maybe even third, which would have been incredible. But the main thing is not the result; it's the learning process. We've learned a lot on this rally, with the pace notes as well, and it will all be very useful for the future. I'm feeling confident."