On this day in ERC history: Kubica wins big in Austria
Robert Kubica, who will make his hugely-deserved and long-awaited return to Formula One this season after serious injury derailed his grand prix career, was winning in the FIA European Rally Championship five years ago today (5 January 2014).
Kubica, a race winner in Formula One, started the closing 25.00-kilometre stage of the 31 Int. Jännerrallye, Oberösterreich trailing Václav Pech by 11.8s. But a stunning performance, coupled with an inspired tyre choice, enabled him to power to victory on the ERC season opener, which took place in the stunning countryside of Upper Austria.
While Pech – who selected slick tyres for his MINI John Cooper Works S2000 – struggled for grip on the mud and rain-hit final test, Kubica opted for a combination of studded and winter Michelin tyres fitted in a diagonal formation, which proved ideal for the demanding conditions.
Co-driven in his LOTOS-backed Ford Fiesta RRC by Maciej Szczepaniak for the first time, Kubica was fastest in the fog and dark by 23.0s to secure top spot over Pech by 19.9s and top the inaugural ERC Ice Master standings after he set eight fastest stage times.
The Polish driver’s efforts emulated Jan Kopecký’s victory of 2013 when the Czech reversed a deficit of 10.6s to claim first place. And his winning margin could have been even higher but for a puncture on day one and a 10-second penalty for a jumped start on Sunday morning.
“For sure it’s very nice to do be here as a winner,” said Kubica at the time. “I did participate on four ERC events [in 2013] but I was often unlucky and made [a] few mistakes as I was using the rallies for training. I was a bit more lucky this time, but the conditions were very difficult and for sure this was one of the toughest weekends of my motorsport career.”
Kubica earned the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy for his achievements, which was presented by two-time world rally champion Marcus Grönholm, who was in Austria working as an expert TV commentator for Eurosport.