Today’s driver report analyses the first half of Robert Kubica’s debut season as a WR Car driver. It’s been a steep learning curve for the Pole:
The former F1 race winner arrived in the main WRC field having obliterated his opposition in the WRC 2 championship a year earlier. The graduation to WR Car machinery wouldn’t be too difficult would it? Yes. And that’s a resounding yes.
Kubica has found the first half of the season a significant challenge. Expectations were raised to an unreasonably high level when he set fastest times on the opening two stages at January’s Rallye Monte-Carlo. But crashing out of fourth place set the tone for the next three events.
Kubica crashed three times in Sweden, twice in Mexico and twice in Portugal to drain him of what little confidence he may have gained from his brief glimpses of brilliance at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Kubica realised he needed to sacrifice some of his blistering speed for a more measured approach if he was going to complete rallies. It sounds easy but it’s not something that comes naturally to an F1 driver where speed is everything.
But, with the support of his colleagues at M-Sport, Kubica turned a corner at the next event in Argentina as he completed the rally in sixth place. He didn’t crash once.
Even better was to follow at Rally Italia Sardegna where Kubica put the physically demanding conditions to the back of his mind and just got on with the job of driving fast – and carefully.
He was an impressive fifth before he hit suspension trouble and dropped to eighth, but it was another encouraging showing.
Rally Poland failed to deliver the result Kubica was looking for on home soil after he damaged the right-rear wheel on his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, but Kubica’s focus is now firmly fixed on the six remaining rallies of the season – and particularly the three asphalt events.
Those are the events where Kubica’s racing experience will really come into play and podiums have to be a realistic target.
Kubica finished eighth at Rally Italia Sardegna and he admitted it was the first time he had enjoyed himself behind the wheel on a gravel rally. It was a breakthrough moment and one where he looked like he’d finally understood what the WRC is all about.
Rally Portugal was one of the few events where Kubica had some previous experience but it counted for nothing. The beleaguered Pole racked up another two crashes and his fourth DNF from five championship outings in a WR Car. “Right now I am going through a difficult period of my life,” he said. “I think I must somehow reset myself and try to approach rallies the way I did at the very beginning.”