World Rally Championship: Robert Kubica in third place after first day in Monte Carlo
Last Updated: 16/01/14 8:35pm
Robert Kubica: Put in an impressive drive on first day of Monte Carlo rally
Former Formula One driver Robert Kubica put in an impressive drive on the first day of the season-opening Monte Carlo rally on Thursday.
The Polish driver, who had to quit Formula 1 after suffering serious hand injuries in a minor rally in 2011, won the first two stages and finished the day in third place overall ahead of defending world champion Sebastien Ogier.
The 29-year-old, who won the second-tier WRC2 title last year, is starting his first full season in the World Rally Championship in an M-Sport prepared Ford with a reconfigured gearshift and handbrake because of the limited strength in his right hand.
Frenchman Bryan Bouffier leads overall, with Britain's Kris Meeke 38.8 seconds behind him, with Kubica 0.7 seconds further back and Ogier in fourth.
There were patches of snow and ice on stage one - a 15.5-mile trek from Orpierre to Saint Andre de Rosans - but despite having almost no previous experience of the Monte Carlo rally, Kubica finished 14.3 seconds quicker than Bouffier and 19.1 seconds ahead of Ogier.
"It was very tough, there was snow and we were not expecting snow. We had slick tires. That was the toughest stage of my life."
"It was very tough, there was snow and we were not expecting snow. We had slick tyres," Kubica said. "That was the toughest stage of my life."
After winning the second stage ahead of Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala, Kubica was 36.8 seconds clear of Ogier, who had climbed into second spot.
But Kubica then struggled badly on the snow in the undulating third stage, finishing a lowly 21st as he dropped down to fourth overall while Bouffier took the overall lead.
He recovered well to finish third in the 15.8-mile fourth stage, won by Latvala to trim Bouffier's lead to 36.3 seconds.
Ogier then won stage five, with Kubica finishing fourth and moving ahead of Meeke to position himself in second overall.
Most of the earlier snow on the high altitude section had melted or turned to slush, making it a wet stage six. Kubica finished it in seventh place, with Meeke fourth fastest to regain second place.