Frustration builds as Huff battles in vain to bring LADA up to speed at Hungaroring
Rob Huff came agonisingly close to delivering his LADA Sport LUKOIL Granta TC1 challenger into the second part of qualifying for Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the Hungaroring near Budapest, Hungary (3 May).
With the Granta still in development, Huff knew that breaking into Q2, which determines the top 12 starting positions for Sunday’s races, was going to be a tall order and would mean outpacing at least two of his rivals in quicker machinery, as well as his teammates, James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy.
The day’s free practice sessions had given some cause for optimism, as Huff delivered his LADA into the top ten and came within 1.5s of the leading Citroens, representing a marked improvement on the previous two outings.
Huff’s experience as a former winner in Hungary certainly helped close the gap but, as qualifying began in front of a hugely enthusiastic Hungarian crowd, hopes of a rain-affected qualifying session faded.
The cars took to the track on slick Yokohama tyres and Huff planned three runs, saving fresh rubber for the final assault that might propel him into Q2.
The Briton pushed the LADA Sport LUKOIL Granta to the maximum and sat in a very respectable ninth place after his first run, ahead of a number of pacey Chevrolet Cruzes.
Things were on a knife-edge as Huff completed his second run. The 2012 WTCC Champion held 12th position and recorded a best time of 1m50.908s to get within 1.5s of the quickest Citroen of Jose Maria Lopez.
Huff was a fraction of a second ahead of Spaniard Hugo Valente, who sometimes exceeded the limits while pushing to depose his Newmarket-based rival.
With an air of inevitability, Valente improved to leapfrog Huff and leave him a frustrating 13th, although a post-qualifying exclusion for Dusan Borkovic promoted the LADA contender to 12th on the grid.
“It is very very frustrating to have missed out on the chance to take part in Q2,” said Huff. ‘I extracted everything from the car and did as good a lap as I could, yet we can’t compete with drivers that are constantly making mistakes in cars that are simply quicker than the LADA Granta TC1 at this moment in time. We can only do the best with what we have and I will continue to strive to get on terms with the competition.”
You can watch ‘Huffy’ take on the opposition in Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship at the Hungaroring livee on Eurosport tomorrow (Sunday 4 May) at 13.30 and 14.40 local time (BST +1 hour).
For more information on Rob Huff's racing activities, please visit the official www.robhuff.com website, 'like' his Facebook page or follow @HuffSport on Twitter.