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FINLAND WELCOMES CAREFUL DRIVERS

Kimi&Neil.JPGFurther to my last blog which touched on Finnish characteristics, here is a joke told to me in Jyväskylä this weekend by a Finn: "what's the difference between a Finnish introvert and a Finnish extrovert? A Finnish introvert looks down at his own shoes, a Finnish extrovert looks down at someone else's shoes". Also, I once spent an afternoon in Tampere and at least 70% of the population was wearing Iron Maiden T-shirts... so it's not all horsepower and horseflies over there. One thing is for sure, they can organise a rally. You know you're in the middle of something special when you can walk a hundred yards and see Ari Vatanen, Tommi Mäkinen, Markku Alén, Marcus Grönholm, Kimi Räikkönen, Sebastien Vettel and Sébastien Loeb along the way. That's like having Pele, Maradona, Bobby Charlton, Cristiano Ronaldo and Michel Platini just hanging around, with Glenn McGrath & Ian Botham along for the ride. Just with more umlauts.
Without wishing to sound like an ISC press release, it actually felt like a tipping point for the sport - an uprecendented 2 year commitment from the current manufacturers, the service park a-buzz with rumours of at least 3 new constructors ready to commit, Loeb's stranglehold thoroughly relinquished in a genuine battle of speed, the world's media focused on the presence of Räikkönen, plus some frankly astonishing action... all this at a time when F1 seems to be imploding. Next I'll be telling you it's cool to be a rally fan again...
My weekend began with the pressure of being offered the only official one-on-one TV interview with Räikkönen. Preceded by a difficult reputation - especially in Finland, where he seems to be viewed with the same cynical tabloid scrutiny as our Premiership footballers - I found him warm, friendly and talkative. Iceman Schmiceman.

We then watched as he showed the speed of a genuine Group N contender, before sealing his fate as a PROPER rally driver by rolling his Punto into the forest. Having thus earnt his rally wings, I feel we will see Kimi scheduling his 2010 World Rally programme around the F1 calendar - "I won't have any testing with Ferrari, so there will be plenty of time". His early exit meant he could get down to the serious business of partying on Saturday night with Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg - the kind of unhinged boozy shenanigans that only former world champion drivers and veteran rock stars seem capable of surviving.

via http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/motorsport/2009/08/finland-welcomes-careful-drive.html#more

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