Kimi rides the rollercoasters at Rally Finland
- 27th July 2010, 9:53am
Question: what do Finland's Kimi Raikkonen and America's Mike Powell have in common? Answer: both of them are experts at the long jump.
Powell, born in Pennsylvania, broke Bob Beamon's 23-year-old long jump record at the 1991 Tokyo World Athletics Championships, leaping for 8.95 metres. The record still stands today.
It's impressive, but not quite as far as a World Rally Car can jump over the famous rollercoaster crests of Rally Finland, which launch the cars into the air like trampolines. The unofficial record is held by Finnish driver Harri Rovanpera, who managed to make his car fly for a whole 75 metres a few years ago. Beat that, Mike.
But as spectacular as it looks, Kimi Raikkonen will be aiming to spend as little time as possible in the air on Rally Finland. That's not because he's got a fear of flying (which is just as well as he's competing on 12 rallies scattered all over the world this year with Red Bull). Instead it's because there are certain things that you can't do when you are airborne in a rally car. Notably, brake and steer.
When you only spend half the time with your wheels touching the ground, it's essential to make the most of those moments. Luckily Kimi has some experience of Rally Finland before, but it's still going to be a huge adventure in front of his home crowd. On this occasion, he doesn't even need Red Bull to give him wings.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Kimi. "It's so exciting to drive the car on these roads, and it's certainly a very different experience to what I have been used to in Formula One. But although it sounds strange, Finland is probably the closest a gravel rally gets to being on asphalt. Some of the roads are really fast and smooth; others are twisty and bumpier. That's what I really like about rallying: everything is so varied, even during the course of just one rally. There's no way that you can memorise the route like you would on a race track, so instead you have to concentrate on the pace notes. A rally car isn't as fast as a Formula One car, but when you are flat-out between the trees, believe me, it feels just as quick! Rally Finland is something that I grew up watching when I was small, so it feels very special for me to be competing here now."
For Kimi it's the second time on this event, whereas his co-driver Kaj Lindstrom is tackling Rally Finland for the 11th time. Kaj comes from Mikkeli, not so far from the rally's base in Jyvaskyla, so he's got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the fastest rally in the World Championship. And yet it nearly always springs a surprise.
"I actually couldn't quite remember how many times I had competed on the Rally Finland before: I really had to stop and think about it," commented Kaj. "I remember very clearly though the first time that I did it with Kimi last year. We were just in a Super 2000 car but straight away we were in the top three of the class, and it was clear just how much speed and natural talent he had in rallying. Obviously our task is a bit more complicated this year, but there's no real pressure either: we had a useful test and we're just going to go out there, do our best, and try to put on a really nice show."
Mike Powell, who now teaches long jump technique to young athletes, once said: "I believe that the approach in 90% of the jump. It sets up the rhythm, it sets up the takeoff, and that's really the majority of the work. Once you leave the ground this whole distance that you can go is already pre-determined by the amount of speed you have at take-off."
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