The former Formula 1 driver made his WRC and gravel rally debut in Portugal, driving a Citroen DS3 RRC in the WRC-2 support category.
He began strongly, placed second in the WRC-2 standings on Friday morning, despite sliding wide into a ditch and damaging a tyre and his car’s cooling system.
But Kubica retired later that day when two further punctures prevented him from making the 206km drive to the Super Special in Lisbon.
Before the rally, the Pole expected that adapting to pace notes would be his biggest challenge. But he was also surprised by how some parts of the stages changed character when driven hard.
“Without experience, it is difficult to judge how a crest is going to affect the handling of the car at full speed from what you see in recce,” he said.
“There are so many jumps here that you can’t take it easy without losing two or three seconds per kilometre! I noticed a big improvement on the second runs and I was surprised to set such good times.”
Kubica rejoined the rally on Saturday, but endured a difficult time when hydraulic failure left his car without a handbrake and the paddle shift gear selector that he has dispensation to use because of his hand injury.
The problem recurred in the afternoon, and led to his second retirement, 700 metres into Saturday’s final stage.
The final day went more according to plan, enabling the Krakow driver to rack up the miles, particularly on two runs of the 52km-long Almodovar stage. He ended the rally sixth in WRC-2, which meant he collected his first points in the category.
“The last ten days spent in Portugal have been a very useful learning experience,” he reflected. “Overall, it has been pretty positive, although we have been a bit unlucky at times. For my first gravel rally, I think I have shown good pace on the stages where I didn’t have any problems. I have found a lot of answers to the questions I had a few days ago. If we were to rerun the rally in a few weeks time, I’d obviously be better equipped. So that augurs well for the rest of the season.”
Kubica expects to learn more on his next WRC-2 appearance, thought to be the Acropolis Rally in May.
“The most important thing for me is to manage to correlate what I see in recce with what happens in the race. The course this weekend was very technically demanding, so that will be useful for the coming rallies. But I am already aware that none of the rallies will be easy…”