Why Kubica didn’t settle to be Just Another Privateer?

Robert Kubica performs during the FIA World Rally Championship 2015 in Salou, Spain on October 24, 2015

So, Robert Kubica is talking about leaving the World Rally Championship. Even saying this or thinking about it breaks my heart, and I mean it. I’ll try to keep it as real as possible and stick to what I personally think are facts, but no promises, okay?

I cannot say I blame Kubica for thinking about leaving, or even making proper moves in that direction. Things just aren’t working as they should, but were they ever supposed to? Was he really hoping to challenge the big factory teams with his impromptu team? Yes, miracles do happen from time to time, but this abomination of a team was never meant to work, not when it’s set up like that and not in today’s World Rally Championship. I mean, just look at other privateers. Some of them are WRC regulars with years of experience and they’re far from podium positions, stage wins or even fastest split times. That tells me things are very hard for private teams in WRC. If they cannot be fastest on splits, win stages or rallies, then it just means privateers aren’t meant to be aiming that high. The problem is, some of them are.

Kubica, in my mind, never wanted to be just another privateer. He could have settled for nice weekends in a rally car, see some sights, kick some dust, talk to a journo or two and then move on to the next event, with no pressure to perform from either his sponsors or himself. He could have done all that. His injured hand offered him a great excuse and he really could have used it more, you know, a whine here and there, but not in his casual way. Just a tad more emotion. Then he could have blamed the low budget or lack of experience for his mediocre results, never coming even close to top scorers, no matter who the current top scorers are. But, people will say, he did all of that! In most of his interviews he mentions his small, barely functional team, then he mentions his right hand and then he rounds it up with the “lack of experience” reason, to complete the lineup. True, he does all that. But he also pushes like crazy and constantly tries to improve, never settling for any of those reasons. He just has to keep repeating them because people just need to hear them over and over again. He never joined this motor sport discipline just because he thought it would be easy or that he would get results without much effort. And when it became apparent that there will indeed be efforts, and plenty, he did not succumb, or withdraw or just settle for being Just-Another-Point-Scorer (on a good day). Until now. But I don’t think he is contemplating retreat because he is scared of the sport or because he is afraid of the challenge.

“Kubica has no business in WRC, all he does is crash”. “This is not roundy circuit, he should go do tracks”. “Waste of cash and good cars he is, better give his car to some proper driver, like -insert name of a driver who is rallying his entire career, has crashed equal amount of cars, has barely any valuable result, yet he is Teh Next Big Think I’m tellin’ ya-“. He cannot even have a normal old puncture before pitchforks are raised in yet another “must be his driving style that caused it!!!”.

Some of Kubica’s crashes are just plain stupid, I’ll give them that. We’ll probably never know if any of them were caused by his fucked up hand, but if that damn hand is the reason, then he really should stop what he’s doing, for it will never work. Yet I bet plenty of those crashes were caused by him just trying hard. Then trying too hard, because how else would you know whether you’re good and fast enough. You can settle for the middle of the pack (and below), and have a puncture here or there, just so there’s an extra reason to give an interview at the stage end, and not much more. You can, if you’re okay with that, or if your team or sponsors are okay with that. Kubica’s problem, at least how I see it, is – he never was okay with that. And so he crashed. His rallies were his testing grounds. His only rally car was his classroom. As he said recently, with an additional million euro he could buy another car and have one for testing and learning. But he barely even has a team, throwing more money at it would make very little sense.

I know some people are wondering what is Kubica’s final aim, what is his goal in the WRC. I understand that very well, because I wonder the same thing concerning few other drivers. I am aware they’re much better rally drivers than I am, but they’re either not good enough as those split, stage or rally winners OR the current WRC is just financially totally impossible for private drivers. Oops, did I swipe once again at those “other privateers”? No worries, some factory drivers raise very similar questions in my head occasionally. And while I cannot speak for those other drivers, or rather, I don’t care that much (not caring because they would have complained by now if they struggled to produce results because of money), I will dare say Kubica’s goal was quite simple. He went in wanting to excel. As simple as that. Maybe I did get a wrong impression of him, maybe he is a massive jerk and a big fake, but I don’t think he is. I also admit my knowledge and understanding of this sport may be very limited, but in my (possibly) limited mind Kubica’s main goal was to be the best. Whether that means aiming at the top spots and fastest drivers in wealthiest teams, or it means looking for every bit of performance within himself, then working on that and improving it. That is why I respect this man so much. Not because he is from a Slavic country and we Slavs should stick together, as one insanely funny comment once said. I respect him because he is never happy not improving, even when it hurts him, his results or his chances. And that is his biggest problem.

By not having a proper team, Kubica is throwing away so much potential. But if he cannot build a team around him, and I’d like to see any “not settling for leftovers” driver do, what else can he do? He can wait for the mercy or a sense of risk combined with aw-fuck-it, lets-try-this attitude from any of the factory teams. Or he could hope for a more equal chances between privateers and factory teams, which will happen never. He is a huge potential still; even if he’s not as handsome and cannot set fans on that kind of fire (or flood, depending on the occasion) like some other guys can (I was once told this is a very important thing in motor sports). There is a huge potential in him because he has that rallying grit, that bold determination that borders with silliness, but which we so often praise in other drivers. He also has a huge following. Yes, even outside Poland, can you imagine. I’ve heard some people like him even in the UK. Granted, there’s approximately a dozen of them, but they’re the real deal.

Before this gets any sillier, I’ll wrap it up, even though there is a lot (I mean, A LOT) more I could and want to say. I’ve been tossing this thing in my head for too long now so it was time to get it out. Take from it what you will. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind or build a monument to this driver. I’m just trying to present some reasoning for my enthusiasm. I love underdogs, I love people who try when they see they have it in them. Maybe because I often wasn’t like that. Who knows.

Losing Kubica would be a very bad thing for WRC. Yes, some people would feel a relief, but they can sleep tight, nobody is questioning them anyway. Should Kubica, in the end, decide he’s had enough, I hope he takes the positives with him. That and the knowledge that we really, fully enjoyed his stint in this fabulous motor sport discipline. Well, at least some of us did.

If you ask me, Kubica could potentially do very well by taking a year off, and by that I mean settle for a test role and some outings, to rebuild confidence and gain some more ground. Meaning, Toyota Motorsport!