Huff cautiously optimistic after promising qualifying in Slovakia
Reigning World Champion, Rob Huff, will start Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) on Sunday (28 April) from seventh and fourth places respectively, after a solid start to the weekend at the ultra-modern Slovakia Ring.
A lap time of 2m13.285s saw the ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport driver end the first 30-minute practice session on Saturday (27 April) as the quickest of the SEAT runners in sixth place.
FP1, held under glorious blue skies, was a straight forward affair for Huff, although the session didn’t go off without incident, for many of his competitors were caught out by the low-grip track surface and spun off.
Conditions remained static for second practice. The Chevrolets of Tom Chilton and Yvan Muller set the initial pace until Huff split the RML pairing with a time of 2m12.904s on his fourth lap around the Eastern European circuit.
The Newmarket-based racer was eventually demoted to fourth as Muller improved and Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini pumped in a last-minute glory run to top the timesheets, having had his running curtailed by mechanical issues in the opening minutes of the session.
Further attempts by Huff to better his lap time were thwarted by yellow flags as other drivers, including his Munnich Motorsport team-mate Marc Basseng, visited the Slovakia Ring gravel.
However, the 33-year old ended free practice satisfied with the pace of his SEAT Leon WTCC and looked ahead to qualifying with optimism.
And it looked as though the reigning World Champion was right to be confident. He bettered his fastest FP2 time by almost six tenths of a second straight out of the blocks in qualifying, crossing the start/finish line in 2m12.361s to nab provisional pole with a comfortable buffer between himself and his ALL-INKL.COM SEAT team-mate Basseng in second place.
However, red flags brought the session to a halt with 15 minutes left to run, following a sizeable shunt for BMW racer Darryl O’ Young.
There was a hive of activity at the restart with practically the entire field scrambling for track position on the out-lap.
The pace quickened dramatically thereafter and an improved time of 2m11.599s meant Huff ended up seventh in the times.
In the ten-minute Q2 session that followed, which determines the top 12 starting positions for Sunday’s two races, Huff used a solitary three-lap run to record a time of 2m11.624s and qualify his SEAT Leon seventh for Round 6 of the 2013 WTCC.
Of course, with the Q2 order reversed for Sunday’s second encounter, Huff will start Round 7 from fourth on the grid. And he is cautiously optimistic about what he and his ALL-INKL.COM-backed team can achieve in Slovakia.
“With it being such a long lap here in Slovakia you don’t get many bites of the cherry in qualifying, but I think we can be pleased with what we achieved today and I’m sure we have the race pace to compete somewhere near the front for decent results in both of tomorrow’s races,” said a philosophical Huff.
“I made the most of free practice, staying out of trouble and keeping the car on the island. The hard work my Munnich Motorsport team has put in since Marrakech is evident from behind the wheel. But while there’s a notable difference in the car’s pace, this is an unusual circuit and I believe there is still some way to go before we’re able to consistently challenge the Chevrolets and Hondas for race victories.”
Coverage of this weekend’s WTCC action from the Slovakia Ring will be beamed live across the globe on Eurosport. A re-run of today’s qualifying session will be broadcast from 7.30 tomorrow (Sunday 28 April), with Rounds 5 and 6 later in the day at 13.15 and 14.15 (BST) respectively.
For more information on Rob Huff, please like his Facebook page, or alternatively you can follow @Huffsport on Twitter.