Robert Kubica's Impressions of Sebring
If you want to know what life is like as an FIA WEC driver and the experience of Sebring, there’s only one thing to do: ask a driver. Polish star Robert Kubica makes his first appearance at Sebring this weekend and tells us of the adventure…
Robert Kubica, making his debut as a full-time FIA World Endurance Championship driver in this weekend’s 1000 Miles of Sebring, has already made his mark in the series by finishing the first day of the official pre-season test, the Prologue, atop the timing screens.
This is not the first time that the Polish racer has made an instant impact on a World championship-level competition in such a fashion.
Back in 2006, the then 22-year-old, straight from winning the Formula Renault 3.5 series the year before, topped Free Practice 1 during the Bahrain Grand Prix in what was his first appearance in a Formula 1 race meeting. That year, Kubica started as BMW Sauber’s third and reserve driver and it wasn’t until the Hungarian Grand Prix, held in the second par the season, when he made his grand prix debut.
Eight years later, the Pole found himself in a very different place. Having recovered from his horrific 2011 rally accident, that put a halt to his promising F1 career, he reinvented himself as a rally driver. Following a successful, title-winning WRC2 season in 2013, and a one-off WRC outing in a works Citroen in the season-concluding Wales Rally GB, the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix winner embarked on a full top-class FIA World Rally Championship campaign the year after.
Driving a privately-entered Ford Fiesta WRC, he won the opening stage of WRC’s traditional curtain raiser, the Monte Carlo Rally.
“I don’t pay great attention to this kind of things, but these are very nice moments,” says the man himself.
“The life of a racing driver is very chaotic and dynamic. There’s always something to improve and it’s very easy to forget about positives,” he admits. “You never stop and think ‘OK, I won here or there’, you always move on.
“I don’t pay great attention to practice sessions [times]. The purpose of these sessions is not necessarily to finish on top of the classification, but to go through the programme, do the work and go into the direction that will later translate into the end result.”
Sebring is an old school challenge
Speaking of the circuit itself, the Sebring debutant was full of praise of the unique and challenging nature of the course set on the surface of a former military airbase.
“I like old-school stuff and I like [Sebring] because it’s different,” says Kubica. “We don’t have these kinds of tracks in Europe. It’s like going 30 or 40 years back. It’s a one of a kind.
“I’ve always been a fan of circuits that don’t leave you with much of a margin for error and Sebring is like that.
“The track is very demanding mentally, it requires full focus. If you add traffic and an 8-hour duration of the race to the mix, that only spices things up! There’re very few places where you can overtake seamlessly and it’s very slippery off the racing line,” he explains.
“There’s always something going on. There’re very few moments where you can reset your focus. In a way, it makes it’s similar to Monaco in terms of the mental approach. In terms of surface, it reminds me of an old Polish circuit, Kamień Śląski. I used to go there to spectate on local races back when I was a kid.”
Experience can't be bought
Ahead of his FIA WEC and Sebring debut, Kubica’s keeps his expectation modest. “Prema Orlen is a new team, not only to FIA WEC but also to the LMP2 class. Experience in motorsport, especially in endurance racing, can’t be bought in a supermarket.
“The goal is to focus on ourselves and make as little errors as possible. I hope that we’re going to finish the weekend with some positive to take home and this is my main goal for the race,” he concludes.