Winner in Germany at the championship’s first proper tarmac rally, Robert Kubica had hoped to confirm his improving form in France, on a broadly similar course.
Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran produced a flawless performance at the Rallye de France Alsace to take their fourth win of the season in WRC2. The Citroën DS3 RRC crew also now leads the championship standings again and has a chance of securing the title at the next round, Rally de Espana.
“The Rallye de France Alsace is held on tarmac, which in theory should be easier for me given my experience on this surface. However, the stages are very specific, both in terms of their profile and the road surfaces,” commented the DS3 RRC driver.
Robert Kubica wasted no time grabbing the lead in the WRC2 category in winning the first test, the Strasbourg super special stage, held on Thursday evening. “It’s a good start, but there was more to lose than to be gained here,” he tempered. “The rally has yet to really get underway, but we are going to give it our best shot.”
Friday’s programme featured six stages, held on mountainous roads in the Massif des Grands Crus and the Vosges. Managing the changeable weather conditions and tricky tyre choice better than his rivals, Robert Kubica literally flew over the Alsatian roads, winning all of the day’s stages.
The Pole ended the leg almost three minutes ahead of his nearest challenger, Elfyn Evans. “My rival lost time at the start of the day, and I just tried to find the right balance between pushing and controlling my pace. There are still another 200km to go and we’re well aware that something can always go wrong.”
On Saturday, the crews headed towards Colmar for the third leg. The area was hit by rain and fog, which spiced up proceedings on this, the longest day of the rally. Managing his lead whilst also looking to add to his experience, the DS3 RRC driver still won three stages, including the Mulhouse super special stage, parking up in parc fermé at the end of the day with a three and a half minute lead.
“It was very wet this morning. We then had quite a bit of mud, before the roads became dusty,” he reported on reaching the service park in Strasbourg. “We are learning about the car and the tyres in these conditions. But I’d have preferred to have slightly milder conditions…”
Sunday’s final leg, although shorter in length, still featured another six stages including two in the centre of Haguenau, Sébastien Loeb’s home town. With conditions remaining difficult, Robert won all first stages in the morning loop, before repeating the feat in the afternoon, leaving Evans over four minutes adrift. “There was a lot of mud on the corners in Haguenau, and the white lines were also very slippery,” admitted Kubica. “I had to stay focussed. Fortunately, we didn’t have to take too many risks to hold onto the lead.”
“Overall, it has been an excellent weekend, a highly productive one. We were able to get clear despite the tricky sections and the changing road conditions. We have scored lots of points here. We’ll adopt the same approach for the Spanish round. Elfyn Evans has been a tough competitor despite the problems he had. He already has a few big wins under his belt and he won the WRC Academy last year. He is a good benchmark for me.”
With four wins and five podium-finishes from the six rallies in which he has competed, the DS3 RRC driver retakes the lead in the championship standings, eight points ahead of Al Kuwari, who missed the Alsace round but who has the same number of results. “Robert showed a great deal of maturity throughout the weekend,” emphasised Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal.
“His ability to push and manage his pace when necessary was the key to his success at this rally. Some drivers, when they aren’t being put under any real pressure, can take their eye off the ball or make a mistake, but Robert didn’t fall into that trap. Considering the conditions, it’s an excellent performance. He will have our full support in Spain when he tries to win the championship.”
Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran will complete their WRC campaign at the Rally RACC Catalunya (25-27 October).