Raikkonen joins WRC with Citroen
|By Matt Beer||Friday, December 4th 2009, 06:19 GMT|
Citroen has announced that Kimi Raikkonen will join its World Rally Championship line-up in a Red Bull-backed Citroen Junior Team car, as predicted by AUTOSPORT.
The 2007 Formula 1 world champion will be joined in the Red Bull Citroen squad by former Junior WRC champion Sebastien Ogier, who completed an impressive WRC rookie season with the squad last year.
Raikkonen made his top flight rallying debut in an S2000 Abarth at his home round of the WRC in Finland earlier this year, earning the respect of the series regulars for the speed with which he adapted to driving on the stages. He has hinted for many years that he was keen to pursue a career in rallying after F1, and when he announced last month that he would take a sabbatical following the breakdown of his talks with McLaren, the WRC was seen as his most likely destination.
"I always wanted to compete in rally, especially in the World Rally Championship at some point in my career," said Raikkonen.
"Thanks to Red Bull, I have the opportunity to drive the best car of the series with the Citroen C4. This is a new but very exciting challenge."
Speculation has suggested that Raikkonen could return to F1 with Red Bull after his first WRC season. He confirmed that his Citroen deal only covered 2010 at present.
"For the moment we have a one-year contract and we will see how it goes for the future," Raikkonen said. "I am really looking forward to testing the car and taking the start of the first rally."
Citroen team boss Olivier Quesnel said he was delighted by Red Bull's increased involvement, and that the squad had such a strong Junior line-up in Raikkonen and Ogier alongside factory drivers Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo.
"Red Bull's commitment and energy are a perfect fit for Citroen's ongoing thirst for victory," Quesnel said. "We will continue to count on Sébastien and Dani to defend our world titles in 2010, and we will also be prolonging our association with Sebastien Ogier who showed outstanding potential this year.
"Last but not least, it is with immense joy that we welcome Kimi Raikkonen to our ranks. We are very proud that he has chosen Citroen.
"In addition to the confirmation of these four crews, we will hopefully be able to announce other programmes over the coming weeks."
Raikkonen and Ogier will contest 12 of next year's 13 WRC rounds, but will skip the New Zealand event.