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|Kimi Raikkonen competing in the Rally of Finland in August [GALLO/GETTY]|
Ex-Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen is making the switch to the world of rally driving, competing for Citroen in the World Rally Championships next season.
The former Ferrari driver is one of only a few modern Formula One drivers who have attempted the transition.
Citroen said the Finnish driver would compete for its Red Bull-backed Junior Team in 2010.
The one-year contract keeps alive the chances of Raikkonen returning to F1
in 2011, with the Red Bull connection in his new rally team likely to trigger speculation of a move to the Red Bull F1 outfit.
“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.”
Raikkonen, who won the 2007 F1 championship, left Ferrari at the end of the 2009 F1 season to make way for the arrival of Fernando Alonso.
When Raikkonen drove a Fiat in the Rally of Finland this year, during a break between F1 races, the 30-year-old was the first active F1 champion to compete in the world rally championship since the late Jim Clark drove a Lotus Cortina in his home British round in 1966.
The driver has long been an enthusiast of a sport that has a strong pedigree of Finnish champions.
“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.”
|Not quite the glamour of F1 but definitely as much of a challenge [GALLO/GETTY]|
Despite Raikkonen crashing out on the second day in Finland while 15th overall, but third in his class, he impressed quite a few rivals and onlookers.
His co-driver at the Rally of Finland, Kaj Lindstrom, praised his skills.
“Kimi did an amazing job, better even than I expected,” said Lindstrom after the event.
“He just has a natural feel for the car, which allowed him to set times right up there with people who have far more experience than him.”
Following confirmation of his departure from Ferrari, Raikkonen and his management were involved in talks about a move back to his former team McLaren. However McLaren ultimately signed 2009 world champion Jenson Button to partner Lewis Hamilton in 2010.
Raikkonen said he was not prepared to join a weaker team, and elected to take a sabbatical from F1 in 2010, holding out the possibility of a quick return the following season.