When Robert Kubica came on to the World Rally Championship scene in the WRC2 category last year, it caused quite a stir. Rally had another former F1 winner coming over to what many of us rally fans deem to be the pinnacle of motorsport. This would help draw considerable attention to rally which has been recovering from a period of lackluster spectator and TV viewer counts. Unlike Raikkonen though, Kubica feels he has unfinished business in Formula 1. Most recall that Kubica’s F1 career was cut short after a nasty accident in an Italian rally in 2011 that almost cost his life and caused severe damage to his right arm and hand. It has been questionable as to whether Kubica would recover fully enough to ever return to Formula 1 racing.
Two years later in 2013, Kubica’s strength mostly returned except for some right arm and hand weakness. Instead of going into sportscar racing or some other form of motorport, Kubica faced his demons head on and returned to the sport that almost took his life, rallying. Using a Citroen DS3 RRC, he proved that even if all of his physical strength hasn’t returned, his determination to be a winner certainly has. With a clear focus, Kubica stormed onto the scene with WRC2 victories in Greece, Italy, and a 2nd place in Finland. This came after never having raced on gravel before Rally Portugal earlier in the season. Kubica followed that up with victories on all the tarmac rounds, his favorite surface. With that Kubica claimed the WRC2 Championship title and proved that he was able to take on the challenging constantly changing conditions that the sport of rally has to offer.
For some reason there is a group of rally fans out there that doesn’t think Kubica “deserves” his WRC2 rally championship title. They say he isn’t thankful enough, or that he doesn’t seem to appreciate it as much as he should. Unlike some drivers like Petter Solberg, Kubica is extremely calm and reserved. This happens whether he wins or loses. For sure he doesn’t jump up and down on his car and scream out loud that he won. Does this make a victory any less deserving? To Kubica, he doesn’t go into a race without the expectation of challenging for victory. So a win is just an expected result. This is why he puts in a massive amount of commitment and hard work planning and testing for every event. What the haters say is that all Robert Kubica cares about is returning to Formula 1. If that were true, then why would he be so intent on victory in rally? Sure Kubica has never been shy that he still has a goal of returning to Formula 1 again, but does that warrant such hatred? Does a different driver really deserve a victory over another just because of how they celebrate? To them I say no, championship titles are earned not simply deserved, and Kubica’s results speak for themselves.
Robert Kubica is an amazing talent with the ability to adapt to changing conditions in a way I haven’t seen since the early days of Sebastien Loeb’s career. Speaking of Loeb, he has never been one to be overly emotional either. I think Kubica comes from that same rare breed of driver that is hyper-focused and easily blocks out emotion to get the job done. Ironically this doesn’t mean Kubica doesn’t have a good sense of humor. Listen to any of his interviews before or after a race and he’s quite the comical guy. During a race event however, don’t expect to get a lot out of him at stage ends because he’s too focused on getting the job done. That may seem stand-offish or even rude to some, but his results speak for themselves.
Case in point about Kubica’s abilities was this weekend’s event at the Jänner Rally in Austria, the first round of the European Rally Championship. Being similar icy tarmac conditions as would be seen at Monte Carlo, the now M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver went to Austria simply as a test to be ready for round 1 of the WRC. Robert Kubica won the Jänner Rally in a dramatic final stage shootout against the much more experienced Václav Pech. Think about this for a moment though. Kubica went to Austria with a new car, a new co-driver, in driving conditions he’s never raced in, at an event he’s never driven before and won it. Not only that, he won it with a blistering final 25K stage finishing 31.7 seconds faster than the leader Pech. Oh, did I mention that Kubica’s never raced on studded tires before either? This man’s skill is undeniable, and yet some think his WRC2 Championship was not deserving? We can only speculate how well Kubica will do against the top drivers in the WRC, but it is with little doubt that he’ll be competitive, especially on tarmac.
Robert Kubica may return to Formula 1 at some point in the not too distant future, but I and many other rally fans are thrilled to have him in the World Rally Championship.