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Kovalainen and Loeb swap seats for a day 06 Dec 2007

2007 Elf Event with Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastien Loeb. Paul Ricard, France. 5th December 2007. Photo: Thierry Bovy/DPPI/RenaultF1. 2007 Elf Event with Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastien Loeb. Paul Ricard, France. 5th December 2007. Photo: Thierry Bovy/DPPI/RenaultF1. 2007 Elf Event with Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastien Loeb. Paul Ricard, France. 5th December 2007. Photo: Thierry Bovy/DPPI/RenaultF1. 2007 Elf Event with Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastien Loeb. Paul Ricard, France. 5th December 2007. Photo: Thierry Bovy/DPPI/RenaultF1. 2007 Elf Event with Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastien Loeb. Paul Ricard, France. 5th December 2007. Photo: Thierry Bovy/DPPI/RenaultF1.

Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen got to try out some rather different high-speed machinery on Wednesday when he traded cars with recently-crowned four time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb during a special promotional event at Le Castellet in the south of France.

Performing in front of a crowd of French and international journalists, the drivers needed no encouragement to get into the swing of things, and they spent much of the day in deep discussion as they fine-tuned their driving styles, each trying to find the limit of their machines.

For Kovalainen, the test in Loeb’s title-winning Citroen C4 was a special day, as he took the wheel on a special stage near the Paul Ricard circuit. What's more, he had a pretty useful co-driver alongside him, as Loeb took the second seat to provide the Finn with a few special tips.

“I had a great time driving Sebastien's car,” said Kovalainen. “I had previously been in this type of car as a co-driver, but this was miles better! I felt quite comfortable, even though the sensations are extremely different to what you feel in an F1 car. I talked a lot with Sebastien and (co-driver) Dani (Sordo), and it was interesting to see how they controlled the car in the slow and high-speed corners, and learn from it. In return, I was able to give them some advice about the R26, and I hope they both enjoyed the experience."

In return, Loeb and Sordo both got a taste of Formula One power at the wheel of the 2006 world championship-winning Renault R26. Loeb, already familiar with circuit racing after participating in the 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours, was delighted to have the opportunity to drive another car with title-winning credentials - and thrilled with the experience as he climbed from the cockpit.

"Today has been a fantastic experience; if I'm honest, it's a little bit like Christmas come early!” he said. “I have just become a father for the first time, I won my fourth world title last weekend, and now a dream has come true: driving a Formula One car for the first time. I was very impressed with the grip generated by the aerodynamics, which is radically different from what we are used to in rallying. I already knew Paul Ricard well from my testing before Le Mans last year, so it meant I could really make the most of today's opportunity. It was a truly exceptional day."