The ex-Formula 1 driver will be at the wheel of a Citroen DS3 RRC on this week’s rally, the first of seven WRC-2 events he plans to contest this year.
With the Pole’s rallying experience limited to a handful of national and regional rallies on asphalt - most recently last month’s Rally Islas Canarias - Portugal will be the first time he will compete on gravel.
And after covering 330 kilometres in pre-event testing he isn’t underestimating the task ahead.
“I think the challenge of this weekend will be one of the biggest of my life - if not the biggest,” he told wrc.com.
“Maybe even it will be too big for my situation, but when you take on something like this and then achieve it, then the feeling of satisfaction at the end makes it all worthwhile.”
Accompanied by co-driver Macek Baran, Kubica said adapting to using pace notes on the loose surface stages would be critical to success.
“They are the greatest challenge and the biggest factor of the performance - I’d say 80 per cent is down to the notes,” Kubica explained. “For me they are everything because I have very limited experience. All the stages here are new for me so pace notes are crucial. It’s not easy to make them - otherwise I think there would be many more good drivers out there!”
More than two years after the crash on an Italian national rally that left him seriously injured, Kubica still has limited strength and movement in his right arm and hand. Unable to use the DS3 RRC’s standard gear lever, the FIA has allowed him to use a paddle-shift gear selector instead, but this is only part of the physical challenge facing him this weekend.
“Compared to asphalt, the steering wheel is lighter on gravel but there is much more correction and movement,” Kubica said. “Physically it’s more demanding for me, which is good because if I manage to complete the rally in good shape it will be a good step forward in my rehabilitation. Of course it will be hard, but physically I think I will be fine.”
Portugal is the fourth round of the WRC-2 competition and features 18 registered drivers including Skoda Fabia S2000 pilot Sepp Wiegand who currently tops the drivers’ standings.
The German is expected to face tough competition from rivals including fellow Skoda driver Esapekka Lappi, and two Ford Fiesta RRC drivers: 2012 WRC Academy winner Elfyn Evans and the winner of the last WRC-2 round in Mexico, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari.
Kubica led the Rally Islas Canarias by more than a minute before he crashed out, leading to speculation that he might be capable of winning in Portugal. Kubica however insists he is not looking to take on the established stars this week.
“My biggest rival here will be myself because I’m not really looking for results yet,” he explained. “From what I’ve heard from other drivers, Rally of Portugal is definitely not one of the easiest rallies in the calendar. So especially for my debut on gravel it’s a very big challenge. Okay, it will be good to see how my speed compares to the leaders but if I’m lacking like 1.5sec per kilometre, it will be already enough for me.”
“The main target is to enjoy, to have fun and collect experience. I want to cover as many kilometres in the car as I can - hopefully the whole rally,” he added.