WRC Monte Carlo: Robert Kubica leads after first stage

Robert Kubica holds the Monte Carlo Rally lead after the opening stage of the 2014 World Rally Championship

WRC Monte Carlo: Robert Kubica leads after first stage

In his WRC debut for the M-Sport team, ex-Formula 1 driver Kubica beat reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier by 19.1 seconds.

Crews were greeted by surprise patches of snow and ice on the 25-kilometre Orpierre-St Andre de Rosans stage, which Kubica described as the hardest of his career so far.

"It was very tough, there was snow and we were not expecting snow - we had slick tyres," said Kubica, who has already won the European Rally Championship-opening Janner Rally this year.

"That was the toughest stage of my life. Janner was very easy compared to here."

Ogier is currently third as 2011 Monte Carlo winner Bryan Bouffier holds second in a one-off outing in an M-Sport Ford, 14s down on Kubica.

WRC 2014: All change in bid to stop Ogier

Hyundai suffered a disaster on its the first stage of its new WRC programme as lead driver Thierry Neuville crashed out after seven kilometres.

As the Rally2 system is not in operation in Monte Carlo, his rally is already over.

Neuville's team-mate Dani Sordo holds fifth in the remaining i20.

Returnee star Francois Delecour was another first-stage retirement.

Follow the Monte Carlo Rally as it happens on AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live from midday UK time today.

This week's AUTOSPORT magazine features a comprehensive Monte Carlo Rally supplement, including a look back at Mini's 1960s success and technical insight into the Volkswagen Polo R WRC

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WRC Monte Carlo: Bouffier leads as Kubica falls to fourth

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