It's now official. Kimi Raikkonen will do what the more perceptive amongst us suspected he would do since the day he decided to roll out his S2000 Abarth Grande Punto and participated in the penultimate (Finnish stages) of the 2009 WRC. I remember watching Raikkonens' relaxed body language after he crashed out during a race session and being impressed with the ease at which he conversed freely with his fellow countrymen. His facial expression seemed a lot less stoic and Spartan than we'd become accustomed to in Formula One. By the way, the day I saw Raikkonen's acclaimed Abarth is the day I vowed 'to get me an Abarth'.
So, as soon the rumours emerged, and I'm writing about the very early rumours when sources were still pretended to be totally unaware of Alonso leaving Renault to replace Raikkonen at Ferrari; I personally felt Kimi's heart was set on it leaving F1 and joining the WRC. The one thing that could persuade him otherwise would be a drive with Mclaren. That wasn't going to happen unless the price was at bargain basement value for Mclaren, so it's fair to say in retrospect, the whole enterprise was doomed from the beginning.
The wire's been buzzing with the news of Raikkonen, and it's served as a catalyst for other rally news being flushed out on to the net. The United States Rally Championship (USRC) has chosen to announce the six stages of its rally competition which will stretch over 10 months. The USRC will begin with a winter stage in New York on the 23-24 January and finish in Arizona between the 1-2 October.
Then, came some rather unexpected but welcome news for Rally enthusiasts such as myself. Ever since Subaru pulled out of the WRC in 2008 leaving Petter Solberg without a ride until he secured a Citroen C4 deep into the 2009 season, the only Rallying Subaru fans have really had, has been Ken Block pulling Kung-Fu-Gymkhana stunts in his STi.
Delightfully exhilarating to watch as Ken Blocks' stunts surely are; Gymkhana is still comparable to a talented dude doing keepy-uppy at half-time during an England vs Brazil match. It's good, but nowhere near the real thing.
However, the Intercontinental Rally Competition (IRC) has announced Subaru's return to big time rallying in 2010. This means that Subaru will join a host of other well recognised manufacturers such as Ralliart, Peugeot, Honda and Abarth to name a few, competing for the IRC title. It's exciting news for Rally fans who have been mourning the loss of their beloved Impreza WRX STi on the main stage outside of North America.
Acknowledging Subaru's cult following, the IRC's General Manager Marcello Lotti commented “we are very honoured to welcome Subaru competitors into the IRC family which gets bigger and better. Subaru is an iconic name in motorsports, which has been the mainstay of customer competition for many years”. Subaru's legendary Director of Motorsport Shigeo Sugaya also added “we are happy to join the IRC, a series we have been keenly observing since its creation three years ago”.