WRC - Analysis: the rally tests facing Kubica

When Robert Kubica signed up to contest the Ronde di Andora in February 2011, the organisers of the event must have been delighted with all the potential publicity of having a former grand prix winner on the entry list.

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WRC - Analysis: the rally tests facing Kubica
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Robert Kubica

Then his Skoda Fabia S2000 drifted wide on a slippery right-hander, hit the wall and the barrier. The Ronde di Andora got its 15 minutes of fame and Formula 1 has since been deprived the kind of talent which would almost certainly have been a force for the world championship by now.

Now though, Kubica and rallying have altogether more positive connotations as the Polish driver sets out his 2013 intentions in the World Rally Championship. And it'll be intriguing to see how he gets on.

It's a fair assumption that he will be at the sharp end of the European Rally Championship field in the Canaries later this month, but it's his WRC debut which will be the more interesting proposition.

It would be easy - especially on the back of his hugely strong performances in a C4 WRC towards the end of last season – to consider Kubica a strong proposition for the WRC 2 title.

But there's gravel to consider.

And there's Esapekka Lappi to remember. The 22-year-old is the latest Finn to find fame in the rally world and won every round of the Finnish Rally Championship last season.

This year, he's driving a factory Skoda Fabia S2000 in WRC 2 and is widely regarded to be the benchmark for this season's series. It's impossible to say where Kubica will slot into the Rally of Portugal classification when he goes up against Lappi and the rest of the WRC 2 field for the first time.

Especially in Portugal.

The Faro-based event is one of the hardest WRC rounds to learn and make pace notes on for the first time.

The usually smooth gravel roads high above the Algarve are exceptionally hard to fathom, with direction changes regularly coming on the top or just beyond blind crests.

It's a place where experience and blind faith in the man sitting next to you counts for everything.

It's going to be fascinating to watch a consummate professional and vastly talented driver like Kubica come to terms with the latest challenge in his career.

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