Encompassing some of the world’s most challenging and unpredictable conditions, Rallye Monte-Carlo is renowned as one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) most difficult events. Unfortunately the RK M-Sport World Rally Team pairing of Robert Kubica and Maciej Szczepaniak will take no further part having fallen foul of the rally’s unforgiving nature through the second pass of ‘Vitrolles – Faye’ (SS9)
The Polish driver had a sensational start to his ‘Monte’ debut with the Cumbrian outfit. Surpassing all expectations, the Formula One race winner claimed an early lead – fastest times on the opening two speed tests amassing a 36.8 second advantage over reigning champion Sebastien Ogier. Despite losing time with an unfavourable tyre choice for the snow-covered descent at the end of SS3, he regrouped brilliantly – holding third place come the end of Day 1.
Gaining a wealth of experience, the Pole continued to impress throughout today’s opening stages. Matching the times of the front runners, Kubica consolidated his position and had become a firm favourite for the podium.
But as the ‘Monte’ bit back, it was not to be. Caught out under braking on what was a rain-soaked first stage after service (SS9), the Pole collided with a bridge 32 kilometres from the start line. With his Ford Fiesta RS WRC stricken down a steep embankment, there was no hope of rejoining the stage and his maiden outing with the M-Sport team came to an untimely end.
With no Rally 2 regulations, Kubica will not restart as the rally ventures south to Monte-Carlo this evening. That said, the popular Pole has gained a wealth of experience and clearly demonstrated that both he and the Fiesta have the pace to challenge at the top of the field.
Robert Kubica (DNF) said:
“There was a sudden change of grip. We knew to be cautious because we had it marked in our pacenotes from the ice note crew, but unfortunately I misjudged how big the change would be. Just before [the incident] the grip was really good, but there was also a lot of mud on the stage. We went into the corner, the front went straight, we hit a bridge and unfortunately that was the end of our rally.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I can understand how Robert [Kubica] feels tonight. Having spoken with him, he is hugely disappointed and feels as though he has let the team down, but that is certainly not the case. We are absolutely delighted with his performance and the entire team is now 100 per cent behind him.”