Ahead of his new challenge in the FIA World Rally Championship in an M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta RS WRC car, former F1 star Robert Kubica's first action of the year resulted in victory at the Jannerrallye in Austria last weekend.

"It's always good," said the Polish star when asked how it felt to be back on top. "There was only one year in my career that I have not been on the podium in 2007 so starting by being on the podium and winning the rally is always nice."

Kubica's last appearance on a podium in F1 came at Spa in 2010 while competing with the Renault F1 (now Lotus) team before he was seriously injured in a crash on the first stage of the Ronde di Andora rally on February 2011.

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While still recuperating from his injuries Kubica was forced to turn his attentions away from single seat competition and toward rallying, and this year he will be a full time competitor in the WRC which starts on January 16-20 with the Monte Carlo rally.

The 29-year-old said that as sweet as last weekend's victory had been in the European Rally Championship event, it was really only a stepping stone and a valuable training event for him for his upcoming WRC challenge - his first year at the very top level in rallying as last year he ran in WRC2 in a Citroen DS3 RRC.

"For sure it's very nice to be here as a winner but our priority was a bit different. It was to get as much experience and information from this rally in order to prepare for Monte-Carlo," said the reigning WRC2 champion and the person you, Crash.net's readers, voted World Rally Driver of the Year 2013.

"We have to keep our feet on the ground," he continued. "This year will be a big challenge participating in the WRC with the top drivers and the new rallies coming.

"I have never been in Monte Carlo - apart from the recce in 2010, but I didn't start the rally. It was a great opportunity to come here but it really will be a tough and long season."

"I am here to learn and use this opportunity as much as I can and hopefully the learning process one day will end up and I use my skills together with experience fundamental in rallying," he added. "You need time to learn and do the rallies and discover the stages. It takes a lot of time but I am motivated to work and then we will see."

Last weekend's victory has certainly not been an easy one. "One of the toughest motorsport weekends of my career," he summed up. "I came here with a new car, a new co-driver into a new rally and completely new conditions - weather conditions, road conditions I never experienced. You can imagine when you get already one new thing it's difficult. When you put them together it has been a very tough two days."

And the ERC victory came despite seeming disaster on the Saturday with a puncture, and a jumpstart penalty on Sunday putting him further on the back foot.

"The puncture [on Saturday] was very unlucky. I didn't see anything, just hear a click but very soft. Then I watched the onboard footage in the evening and you cannot see anything, there was no stone. Any cuts you have big stones and nothing happens but probably we just clipped something and cut the tyre.

"Okay, a jumpstart I was a bit annoyed with myself," he admitted. "Of course the car is completely different and the way the starting procedure is done is different. Every time I get to the start I was delaying the start.

"To be honest when you are an F1 driver you cannot delay the start because you will be dead," he explained. "In rally it doesn't matter half a second but in my mentality every bit counts especially as we were in the fight with V?clav. I knew what I had to do and I did change but it worked out too well and I did a jumpstart by two-tenths and got a penalty.

"As I say I used this rally as kind of a training," he added. "Of course I don't puncture on purpose or do a jumpstart on purpose - I need to practice."

The Jannerrallye certainly points to the practice and preparations going very well for the Pole so far, and there's no question that he'll be one of the stars for the Monte Carlo season opener that everyone will be watching closely as a new phase of Kubica's career gets underway.