Six-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb has given his fellow Citroen driver Kimi Raikkonen a vote of confidence ahead of the Finn's competitive debut in a C4 WRC in this week's Arctic Rally. Loeb says there is no doubting the former Formula 1 champion's speed and added that he expected him to be competitive this season.
Raikkonen will get an early taste of the pace of a WRC round when he goes head to head with Loeb's number two Dani Sordo on the Rovaniemi-based event, which starts tomorrow.
"It's very difficult to say straight away how he will get on," said Loeb. "What we can look at is what he did on Rally Finland last year, when he was close to the pace in the Group N class – this was very good.
"It's easy to see he can drive the car – there's no doubting he's a very good driver. He's a Finn – he has been brought up on slippery surfaces and I'm sure he was playing around on them for a long time. It's natural that he will be good like the other Finnish drivers."
The Arctic Rally will be a continuation of the two-day test which Raikkonen conducted at the end of last week, close to Jyvaskyla in central Finland. The event includes 12 stages and finishes on Saturday afternoon.
Raikkonen said: "I got to know the C4 a little bit during a test session close to the Citroen Racing workshops. This rally is a very good opportunity for me to work with the team in competitive conditions and continue my learning curve with the car. I took part in this rally last year with [co-driver] Kaj [Lindstrom] and as the route is largely the same I think that could help us a bit."
Citroen Racing Technologies team manager Benoit Nogier, the man who will run Raikkonen's C4 this season, added: "This experience will be as useful to the team as it will be to the individual crews. Kimi will drive a C4 WRC in identical specification to the one that he will race over the rest of the season. Similarly, the crew of technicians in Rovaniemi will remain on his car for the remainder of the year."
Full Q & A with Sebastien Loeb