OK, there are a number of intriguing new driver-team-car combinations to keep a close eye on in 2014's WRC season-opener and there are lots of good reasons why our compass has landed on Kubica.
1. Kubica and Monte Carlo
This might be the Pole’s first Monte Carlo Rally but he’s already tasted podium success in the principality with two previous rostrum results in the Monaco Grand Prix podium during his F1 days. He was second for BMW Sauber in 2008 and third for Renault in 2010.
2. M-Sport in need of a hero
It’s more than a year since the British team’s Fiesta – indeed a Ford – took a rally win in the WRC, although it came mighty close in 2013 with Thierry Neuville. With the Belgian now gone it needs someone else to step up to the plate and Kubica could be the man. Having opted to go WRC full-time in 2014 expect nothing less than massive commitment. It matters not that his car isn’t in M-Sport colours as such (livery and entry reflect title sponsor LOTOS) – should he win in Monte Carlo, and let’s face it some astonishing things do un fold here, then Malcolm Wilson’s victory “woo-hoo” will never have been louder.
3. Good at gambling
Kubica’s start with M-Sport couldn’t have been more perfect – he won the recent opening round of the European Rally Championship’s Janner Rallye in a Fiesta similar in spec to his WRC machine. And it was all down to an inspired tyre choice he made for unpredictable weather conditions – something that causes the biggest headaches for teams and drivers on the Monte when stage surfaces can include everything from bone dry asphalt to ice, snow and slush. On the Janner Kubica went into the final stage more than ten seconds off the lead but came out of it nearly 20 in front after a gamble to run two studded and two winter tyres paid dividends.
4. Precision and confidence
Like everyone, Kubica has experienced a couple of prangs during his rallying career. Generally, though, he is anything but accident prone – certainly look to his F1 days when he rarely put a wheel wrong. And that, given the treacherous nature of the Monte, is just what could see him come through for a big result. If, as it sometimes can be on the Monte, conditions are dry then expect him to absolutely fly thanks to his ability on asphalt. While prior stage knowledge is always an advantage – nowhere more so than on the Monte – a decent chunk of this year’s route is new to most drivers meaning the Pole is on something of an even playing field.