Factory WRC outing for Kubica, don’t call it a reward

All sorts of funny surrounds the recent news of Robert Kubica’s (superbly deserved!) promotion to the pinnacle WRC category for the season’s finale in Wales. Stop me if you heard this already, but Kubica will drive Khalid Al Qassimi’s car in Rally GB. Great news and if anyone deserves a WRC drive it’s Robert, after such an excellent debut season in WRC2. But the way news was presented to us is a bit odd and funny even.

While the official Citroën Racing announcement sounds like Kubica earned this promotion through hard work and results (up to a point where he gets the drive even if he doesn’t win the title), official WRC website says this opportunity was actually awarded to him. Perhaps it really was, but to me that sounds a bit off and even potentially harmful. Do we really need to have “rewards” such as this in WRC? Why can’t we call it a chance or an opportunity instead of a reward. I’m not sure if my point makes sense, but to me this awarding/rewarding thing sounds like we have couple of guys with power in their hands, deciding who earns what in a sort-of championship within championship. It just doesn’t sound right – we understand it, but outsiders won’t! Even the “I haz commitments, so here you Driver ABC take mah wheelz and have fun” was better than “I like you and your results, here’s a car”. PR this thing more carefully, guise. “Was given a chance to compete in WRC class” sounds better (to me at least) than “Was rewarded with a WRC car to drive in a Rally GB”. We want WRC to stand for skill, talent and courage and we want the world to think these three matter the most when it comes to success in WRC, no matter how cheesy and/or unrealistic it may sound.

Then there’s this strange thing Citroën’s boss Yves Matton said about Kubica’s Rally GB outing. Matton says he and Robert have an agreement that states Kubica will be able to step up from WRC2 to WRC if he wins this year’s WRC2 title. Sounds fine and perfectly reasonable, but I never thought things went so far. Why? Because Robert himself usually played down idea of chasing the title, and it made perfect sense – he was in his first year, learning a lot about the car and the events. Even after winning few events he still refused to be drawn into title debates. Perhaps he did not want such discussions to bring any extra pressure. Or he never saw any point in talking about the championship because he never really felt entirely comfortable? Again, makes perfect sense, Kubica is not a rally driver by trade, I don’t think he felt really at home on all events, not in first year of competing. In a way, Kubica probably never expected he would be in a position to win the title. He even missed events from the WRC2 calendar – it really looked like this is just a learning year.

Conclusion #1, don’t call it a reward, because it makes no sense – unless we have another championship within WRC, in which those that have give out cars and drives to those that would like to drive and compete. Conclusion #2, I am actually very glad Citroën Racing and Kubica had serious deals on the table, because listening to Robert constantly repeating “I am still learning” and “We’re not thinking about the championship” sounded like he still wasn’t sure about all this. It turns out he was. I hope.

TL;DR – I absolutely love the idea of Kubica in WRC car in Wales and I am one of those people who think Kubica in a WRC class would be pushing for the title in a year or two.

Here are the statements by Matton, Kubica an Al Qassimi, extracted from the official PR thing.

“Such a fantastic performance is worthy of our trust,” commented Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, who welcomed the opportunity to offer his seat to a famous and worthy driver. “Robert’s fine result this year are down to his hard work and determination. We know he will do a great job in representing the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team,” he added.

Convinced by the qualities of the Pole, Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal) detailed the reasons behind this choice, entirely in keeping with the team’s policy for showcasing promising drivers: “In my discussions with Robert, we agreed that he would move up to the next category if he won the WRC2 title. It’s true that as things stand, he hasn’t won the title. But even if he doesn’t win it in Spain, he has still had a very successful season. He is therefore perfectly entitled to have a go at Wales Rally GB. There is no doubt that his motivation and professional attitude mean he can set his sights on securing a good result.”

“This one-off outing for the works team is a great opportunity for me, but it’s also a huge challenge,” revealed Robert. “Wales Rally GB wasn’t part of my original programme, so I’m very happy to be able to have this precious experience. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my partners for this season, who have made this possible.”