KIMI GETS READY FOR ACTION IN GERMANY
The last time that Kimi Raikkonen
set foot on military ground was probably when he did national service as a youngster back home in Finland.
Everyone aged 18 or over has to do military service in Finland, even Formula One World Champions.
So every year 27,000 Finnish boys (women are exempted) join the army. In return for getting up at 5am and enduring cold showers for up to a year, the young conscripts are paid between four and 10 Euros per hour.
Most people are keen never to go back. Yet Kimi will return to military duty once more this weekend, when he takes on some of the most challenging asphalt stages on the World Rally Championship, held in the Baumholder military area on day two of the Rallye Deutschland in Germany.
These long stages are made up of concrete roads that were previously used for testing tanks. By the side of the road are huge stone blocks known as hinkelsteins: these were originally designed for preventing the tanks from going off the road. Needless to say, hitting one of these in a rally car is not recommended.
Luckily, Kimi has a considerably more sophisticated vehicle than a tank at his disposal: the all-conquering Citroen C4 WRC. And the remaining two days of the Rallye Deutschland, on Friday and Sunday, are somewhat more normal than the unique challenge of Baumholder.
The difference between driving on a circuit and on an asphalt rally stage is huge. But Bulgaria last month showed Kimi's potential on sealed surfaces in a rally car, and he is determined to capitalise on the experience in Germany this weekend.
"I don't know exactly what the German stages will be like, but I know that they will be very different to Bulgaria," said the 2007 Formula One World Champion and winner of 18 Grands Prix. "In racing, the surface of one circuit is not massively different to the surface of another, although there are some small changes. In rallying, the difference is huge on every event. There is so much variety on a rally: every kilometre and every corner is different. That's why experience is so important in this sport. So I just need to keep on building up my knowledge: I will try my best in Germany but I really need to make sure that I am there at the finish so that I can learn all about this event. Everyone tells me that the stages are quite complicated so we will have to be careful, especially if it is raining."
Co-driver Kaj Lindstrom knows what to expect from the Rallye Deutschland, having competed on the event twice previously alongside four-time World Champion Tommi Makinen: one of the many rally experts who have been impressed by what Kimi has done in his first year of the world championship.
"This is only going to be Kimi's second World Championship asphalt rally, and just his ninth WRC event," added Kaj. "Germany is not going to be an easy one, but Bulgaria was very good for us and we continued making progress in Finland. I'm really pleased by the way that Kimi has come so far in an extremely short space of time: nobody has rallied at this level before with so little experience, and that's a great achievement. For me, the most important thing in Germany is that we continue learning, work hard on our pace notes, and try to get a solid result. Like Kimi said, it's all about getting the experience."
Luckily for Kimi, Rallye Deutschland is the only time that he will be forced into military action this year. The 'iceman' is 30, and the obligation to be called into the army in Finland ends when you are 28.