FORD Fiesta RS driver Robert Kubica has gone fastest in Shakedown for Rally Italia on the island of Sardinia on Thursday.
It was the first fastest time on a WRC gravel stage for the Pole, who came into the WRC sixth round fresh from a weekend test in Sardinia.
“I had quite a good feeling straight away and the grip was better than I expected,” Kubica said.
“It helped that we waited to let the others go, because I’ll be at the back of the start order tomorrow so there was no point in running at the front on a fresh road.”
Kubica’s Ford Fiesta RS was 0.1 sec. quicker than Sébastien Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R through the sun-baked 4.30km Putifigari test.
Jari-Matti Latvala was a further 0.2 sec. back in the second VW.
Most drivers tackled just the minimum two runs, but Henning Solberg, who did not have a pre-event test in his Fiesta RS, completed four and set fourth fastest time on his final pass, 0.5sec slower than Kubica.
Andreas Mikkelsen stopped for a minute during his first run with an electrical problem in the engine of his Polo R, but was fifth quickest in his second pass.
Kris Meeke rounded off the top six in his Citroen DS3, while Hyundai debutant Hayden Paddon of New Zealand was 11th.
Paddon reported he was pleasantly surprised after seeing the Sardinian stages for the first time during the recce.
“They’re not as bad as I thought. I was expecting a lot more twisty sections from videos I’ve seen but there are some fast places, which is quite nice. But there are narrow sections as well with rocks on the side of the road, so there’s not a lot of room for error,” he said.