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World RX Racing final at Killarney

In just a month's time the World RX of South Africa heads to Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town.

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Comeback Kubica braces for Monaco

2014-01-16 09:35

WRC DEBUT: Robert Kubica steers his Ford Fiesta RS in Chateauvieux, France ahead of the 2014 Monte Carlo Rally. Image: AFP

ALAN BALDWIN

MONTE CARLO, Monaco - Robert Kubica faces the biggest challenge of his rally career yet in Monte Carlo when the former Formula 1 driver makes an icy start to his first full season in the World Rally championship.

Kubica, who won the European championship season-opener in Austria in January 2014 after clinching the second tier WRC2 title in 2013, will be closely watched.

Kubica said: "This year will be a big challenge, participating in the WRC with the top drivers and the new rallies coming."

‘I HAVEN’T DRIVEN ON SNOW’

He's reached the Monaco Formula 1 podium twice, second with BMW-Sauber in 2008 and third with Renault in 2010. The rally will be far different: winding winter roads, sheer drops and sheets of ice. Vehicles will wear studded tyres and some stages will be at night.

Kubica said: "I've never been in the Monte Carlo rally apart from the recce in 2010 but I didn't start the rally. I haven't driven on snow."

Kubica's F1 career came to an abrupt halt when he crashed and suffered near-fatal hand and wrist injuries in a minor rally in Italy in 2011 and underwent extensive surgery.

Since then he has rebuilt his career with a new focus on rallying, always his passion, and will be driving an M-Sport Ford with a reconfigured gearshift and handbrake mechanism because of the limited strength in his right hand.

2014 WRC CONTENDERS

Ford team boss Malcolm Wilson said: "Some of the times he was doing in WRC2, nobody has got that close to World Rally Car pace in a Regional car before at the Autosport International show held in January 2014.

 "In the second half of the season with the tarmac events he's already done, he's going to be really strong."

Kubica will not be alone in the limelight. Mikko Hirvonen, a 15 -times rally winner, has returned to M-Sport Ford from Citroen after a disappointing 2013 season.

'VW THE TEAM TO BEAT'

There are plenty of changes in a 13-race rally championship that is eager to move on from the days when Sebastien Loeb racked up a record nine titles in succession before taking his driving skills to the World Touring Car championship.

Volkswagen’s 2013 WRC champion Sebastien Ogier will contend with the likes of Hyundai, making its competitive debut with rising star Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo.

Citroen has shaken up its line-up with Mads Ostberg partnering Kris Meeke.

Hirvonen said: "I think VW will be the team to beat. Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala will be strong as always."

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