Huff charges into Q2 for the first time in 2014 with banzai LADA Lap in Slovakia
Newmarket’s 2012 FIA World Touring Car Champion, Rob Huff, showed his class and ability by progressing into the later stages of qualifying for the first time in the 2014 season (10 May).
After several mechanical issues throughout free practice and a huge 200kmh spin on the 5.8 kilometer Slovakia Ring circuit on the far outskirts of Bratislava, Huff was expecting little as his best practice time of 2m08.00s was some one-second back from the predicted qualifying cut-off point.
At the start of the session it looked very much like the cut-off prediction was to be correct when on his first out-lap, Huff returned to the pits with no power and a reoccurrence of the alternator problems that hampered his running in the second of the weekend’s free practice sessions that had seen him return to the pits behind a tow truck
With just six minutes of the session remaining and sitting in last position, Huff returned to the track with fresh tyres and enough time for a single shot at a competitive time.
As the LADASport LUKOIL team looked on, Huff pushed his TC1 car to the absolute maximum and crossed the line with an incredible 2m06.4s, a full 1.6secs faster than his previous best, which was enough to position him an impressive 11th, demoting teammate Thompson by 1.3secs.
A tense few minutes ensued. Loeb, late to the track, improved to go sixth, putting Huff on the bubble. Munnich, in his Chevrolet, was on track trying his best to grab the last qualifying slot from his former employee, for whom Rob had delivered a brace of victories.
Hard as he tried, he was unable to get on terms and Huff progressed into the next phase for the first time this season, much to the delight of his Russian team.
The next part of qualifying was a twenty minute session where the goal for Huffy was to reach P10, which would offer pole position for race 2. With time ticking by and Sebastian Loeb’s Citroen stricken in the pitlane, P11 for Huff was looking good, but when Tarquini dramatically went off ahead of Huff with his bonnet detached at high speed and slewed into the gravel, Huff took evasive action to escape what would have been a high speed accident.
The result, a red flag and destroyed tyres on Huff’s car. A double whammy for the Englishman as without the opportunity to improve on old Yokohama rubber and the resultant delay allowing Loeb’s car to be repaired and join the delayed session, Huff was destined to finish the session 12th.
“I am not exactly sure where that lap came from,” said Huff. “P12 is a lot more than I expected and its good for the team that we got into the session part of qualifying. It’s a small victory, but this season we have to take what we can get.”
The prospect of rain in Slovakia for tomorrows (Sunday 11th May) two races may yet allow a further move forward.
Rounds 7 and 8 of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship from the Slovakia Ring in Slovakia can be watched live on Eurosport at 13.15/14.15 and 17.45/18.45 CET (BST +1 hour).