The long and winding road to recovery
Three years ago, with his car impaled on an armo barrier in Andorra, Robert Kubica’s Formula One career lay in tatters. His off piste excursions into the world of rallying had potentially cost him a highly promising career at the pinnacle of motorsport.
Bravery and ability in spades had help propel the talented Pole into the Formula One limelight, along with a series of spectacular crashes that fortunately have seldom been matched by any other driver. Yet, due to the incredibly high standards of safety that today are part and parcel of Formula One, Robert survived what many times had appeared to be the unsurvivable.
But you have to wonder whether that sense of invincibility coming from surviving those crashes may have led to a false sense of security when his need for speed took him into the world of rallying?
Though incredibly strong, rally cars encounter untold hazards around almost every corner. Hazards that can overcome even the most stringent safety measures. It was one such hazard, an armco barrier that ironically should have protected the cars, that speared through the footwell of Kubica’s car. Whilst his co-driver escaped unscathed, Robert was trapped in the wreckage having suffered almost fatal injuries, the most life changing of which would prove to be those to his his right arm and hand.
Naturally right handed, since the crash Robert has had to re-train himself to be left handed.
Though he has recovered fully, the limited dexterity he now has have meant that the confines and complexity of a Formula One car cockpit are such that he cannot meet the necessary standards to fully control the car. With that realisation, and the racing gene still undiminished, Kubica’s attention has been drawn once again to rallying.
In 2013 Robert drove with Citroen in the European and World Rally-2 championships. In 2014 Kubica joined Malcom Wilson’s M-Sport team. M-Sport, long renowned and respected for running the Ford WRC team (and sponsored by NGK), have this season fielded Robert in a full works Fiesta RS WRC.
The season started stormingly with two fastest stage times posted on the Monte-Carlo Rally
Having demonstrated an obvious affinity for events run on surfaced roads, Robert has continued to compete at the highest level, learning the necessary techniques of ‘dancing at high speed’ on gravel and snow.
Now however the WRC returns to the vineyards of Germany which should hopefully play once again to Robert’s strong suit. Tarmac. But he’s keeping a sense of perspective about what may be in store…
“Next we go to Germany and the first true Tarmac rally of the year. I have not had a lot of asphalt driving recently, but of course I am looking forward. I know that it will not be an easy rally – especially in the vineyards with all the hairpins and tight corners – but hopefully the car will feel as good on Tarmac as it does on gravel at the moment.”
Whilst Robert’s many fans are looking forward to Rallye Deutschland, other drivers have been finding that the twists and turns are not be treated lightly…
Whether WRC will play to Robert’s strengths is still to be seen. Others have said he should concentrate on DTM where there is a proven track record of less physically abled drivers competing on an equal level. But for a man who obviously lives life to drive at the very edge of his abilities, and sometimes beyond, maybe that’s just too tame.