Robert Kubica dominated the WRC 2 category in the opening leg of Rallye de France-Alsace to build a lead of more than three minutes after winning all seven special stages in his Citroen DS3 RRC.
The Pole was quickest on the curtain-raiser in Strasbourg last night and fastest on all six stages south-west of the city today, to put him in the perfect position to reclaim the series lead from the absent Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari.
Several of Kubica’s rivals hit trouble and he could afford to ease his pace even at this early stage. However, he continued to press, reasoning that he would only continue to learn in his first season of top level rallying by driving quickly.
“When I feel comfortable with the pace notes and the conditions then I’m driving very well,” he explained. “When I’m not comfortable my driving isn’t quite as good. I’m trying to go quickly because what do I learn by driving slowly?”
His advantage over Elfyn Evans is 3min 31.0sec after the Welshman stopped to change a front right puncture on his Ford Fiesta R5 in SS3.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure what happened. We were lucky not to puncture when we clipped a concrete block coming out of a hairpin, but shortly after the car started pulling to one side. The tyre had come off the rim so we stopped to change it to prevent further damage,” said Evans.
Evans slipped to fifth but regained second from Rashid Al Ketbi this afternoon. The United Arab Emirates driver is 2min 37.6sec further back after sliding his Fiesta R5 into a ditch in the final stage after brake problems.
Mexican Ricardo Trivino is more than 10 minutes off the lead in fourth, despite losing fifth gear in his Subaru Impreza, with Ala’a Rasheed and Marco Vallario rounding off the top six in a Fiesta R5 and a Mitsubishi Lancer.
Robert Barrable retired his Fiesta R5 from third early in SS3 after hitting a concrete bollard on the outside of a hairpin and breaking a trackrod end. He tried to continue but with no steering the car went into a ditch.
Valeriy Gorban was fourth in his Mini John Cooper Works but retired following the opening stage this afternoon with a broken radiator after crashing 1km from the finish. Team-mate Oleksii Kikireshko retired after last night’s test and went out for a second time this afternoon when he crashed.