RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica is on course for a points finish on his first encounter with the challenging tracks of the FIA World Rally Championship’s only Australasian fixture – the Coates Hire Rally Australia.
As the route ventured further south, the nature of the stages changed significantly. Leaving the narrow tracks of yesterday behind, the crews were faced with wider, more open roads and had to quickly adapt to the opposing character.
Once again, Robert rose to the challenge throughout the morning loop. Pleased with his driving, the Pole kept his Ford Fiesta RS WRC firmly planted to the gravel so as to extract the maximum experience from these difficult speed tests.
As the crews headed out for the afternoon, a strong threat of rain meant that tyre selection would be a difficult choice. The RK M-Sport World Rally Team opted for Michelin’s LTX Force soft compound tyres, but as the rain failed to materialise, Robert had to contend with high tyre wear and a substantial lack of traction.
Regardless of his disadvantage, the Formula One race winner posted a solid time through the 48.92 kilometres of Nambucca II (SS11), only to encounter drama on the following stages.
Distracted by an official FIA warning light in the cockpit of his Fiesta, he ran wide over a crest. Hitting a tree, the heavy impact damaged the left-rear corner and suspension of his Fiesta as well as costing the Pole more than a minute to his nearest rivals.
Despite his misfortunes, Robert’s determination continued to shine and he remains on course for a top-ten finish on his first encounter of Australia’s notoriously challenging stages.
Robert Kubica (10th) said:
“We didn’t take the right tyre choice for the afternoon. I had both sets in front of me before I left service but because our forecast said that there was a high probability of rain, I went with the soft option which wasn’t right for the conditions. It all comes down to experience and I had never been in that situation before. I knew that the second stage [SS12] would be difficult as we had no tread left on the tyres. I got distracted by the flashing yellow light which we have for safety then, after a fast straight, we were too late under braking with the worn tyres. The car went straight on and we hit a tree. Of course the body of the car didn’t look quite right, but the rollcage is fine and there are no technical problems so we will be okay for tomorrow and hopefully finish the rally with another good day.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I’m pleased to see that Robert [Kubica] was able to make it back to service with minimal time loss after the heavy impact this afternoon. The technicians have done a great job to repair the car and he’ll be back tomorrow when I hope he can bring home some points on his WRC debut here in Australia.”