Raikkonen to wrestle with the best
- 6th July 2010, 9:48am
Two of Bulgaria's biggest sporting heroes were wrestlers: Dan Kolov and Nikola Petrov. Anybody deranged enough to make a joke about Nikola having a girl's name was unlikely to last long. In fact Petrov was never once defeated in his 25-year wrestling career, having been also crowned Champion of America in 1898.
As for Kolov, he first became famous for his ability to bend sections of railway line around his own neck. So another man who inspired extreme politeness in everybody he met.
Kimi Raikkonen's only fight is going to be with the Bulgarian rally stages, which are brand new to everybody and consist entirely of asphalt. Having won 18 Grands Prix, claimed 62 podiums and scored 579 Formula One points, Kimi does already know a thing or two about driving quickly on sealed surfaces. But it's fair to say that the asphalt stages of Bulgaria will carry about as much resemblance to a racing circuit as Nikola Petrov did to Nicole Kidman.
"It's so different: it's a bit like saying that if you can drive on the normal road OK, then you can drive in Formula One," is how Kimi puts it, briefly giving us all hope that we could in fact become Formula One drivers. But then he explains further: "Rallying and racing is so far apart that the biggest difference is not just the surface. Instead it's the style of driving and the way that you work with the car. There is one thing in common, which is that you use a steering wheel for both. I can't think of many other things to be honest. But I'm looking forward to the weekend. Asphalt should be a bit more normal for me."
Or maybe that should be 'less abnormal' - because Bulgaria will still only be Kimi's sixth World Rally Championship event in his Citroen C4 WRC and his very first on asphalt. Testing and a practice rally in Italy (which Kimi led) have gone very well. Now it's time for a giant leap into the unknown and some stiff competition on super-fast roads.
As always, experienced co-driver Kaj Lindstrom has some words of wisdom for his chauffeur. "We're starting again from scratch here and while testing has gone really well, you never know where you are until you get to the rally," points out Kaj. "I actually did an asphalt rally last year with Kimi in a Super 2000 car, and it was clear straight away that he's got a great feeling with this surface. But I don't think Bulgaria will be a typical asphalt rally. We're going to need to do a good job making pace notes in the recce, and that is what we are concentrating on for now."
Dan Kolov used to say: "I feel strong, because I'm a Bulgarian." Kimi doesn't need a reason to feel strong though. He just does.
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