Cautious start for Raikkonen in Portugal

Cautious start for Raikkonen in PortugalFrom Citroen Press [ 28/05/2010 ].
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The tourist resorts around Faro, according to some people, resemble a Garden of Eden. There is field after field of lush green grass, interrupted only by the occasional strip of sand and deep hole.

The reason for this unusual topography is that Faro is a Mecca for
golf players. They come from all over the world, dressed up in pastel
jumpers, bright white shorts, and shoes that look like they were
borrowed from a gangster in 1940s Chicago.

Kimi Raikkonen and his co-driver Kaj Lindstrom, Red Bull athletes on
the World Rally Championship this year, are also keen golfers. But the
only handicap they faced today were the tough gravel stages of the
Rally de Portugal: a classic but incredibly demanding event on the
World Rally Championship calendar.

Having not competed for over a month, Kimi chose to make a careful
start to get used to the particularly tricky conditions. Even though
it is against the genetic nature of most rally drivers, this sensible
approach paid off and Kimi was rewarded with a provisional place in
the points at the overnight halt. His firm aim is to get to the end,
so it was a perfect start. Now, he just has to keep it all going for
the next two days.

"From the beginning, my idea was to get to the finish of today
without any problems," said the 'iceman'. "We didn't push so hard and
we did everything we needed to do. It's still very tough for me as I'm
just starting out in rallying so it's important to be sure of getting
plenty of kilometres. Probably the most difficult thing about today is
that the grip has been changing a lot, and so it helped when we were
able to do the stages again in the afternoon. We also changed the
suspension set-up at midday, going a bit stiffer. It was basically OK
for the first day, but I still need to get some more speed. I didn't
have so much confidence in the morning but it was definitely better in
the afternoon."

Kimi's co-driver Kaj Lindstrom has years of experience of controlling
excited drivers: a skill that proved to be very useful on the
undulating gravel roads close to Faro.

"The afternoon was better than the morning," said Kaj. "We found a
lot of improvement and the driving confidence was there, which was
good. We made some small changes to the pace notes but nothing
massive. Kimi handled everything well."

However, the Portuguese adventure is only just beginning - because
the experienced Kaj had some words of warning about what to expect
over the next two days and 11 stages. Hot temperatures are predicted
over the weekend, which only add to the challenge.

"The stages we did today were actually the easiest of the whole
rally," said the man who sits in the navigator's seat. "It's going to
get more and more difficult on Saturday and Sunday, so the really hard
part is still to come!"

A final word about golf. Most golfers in the resorts around Faro are
male, with comparatively few women out on the courses. One theory is
that the name of the game stands for 'gentlemen only, ladies
forbidden.'

This is pure fiction One look at the male golfers near Faro is enough
to tell that not all of them are gentlemen. With the notable exception
of Kimi and Kaj of course.