Huff encumbered by new-car issues in searing Moroccan qualifying
Rob Huff was unable to maximise his potential in qualifying for the opening round of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) on Marrakech’s Circuit Moulay El Hassan (12 April), as his LADA Sport LUKOIL team continued working through debilitating new-car teething problems.
Huff, backed by OCC LASIK, showed a great deal of promise from the outset of the WTCC’s Moroccan weekend by posting a lap of 1m46.798s to go sixth fastest overall in Friday’s only free practice session.
The 2012 FIA WTCC Champion held fourth on the timing screens for much of the 30-minute session, until last-gasp glory runs from Hugo Valente and Tiago Monteiro demoted him to sixth place.
Huff, the newest addition to LADA Sport LUKOIL’s stable, continued to up his pace during the build-up to qualifying on Saturday, successfully breaking through the 1m45s barrier to climb as high as fourth on the FP2 leaderboard.
A depleted field of 18 cars took to the track for the first part of qualifying after an FP2 collision took Gianni Morbidelli out of action for the session and Gabriele Tarquini for the remainder of the weekend.
An unconfirmed wheel issue caused a significant and debilitating vibration on Huff’s LADA Granta Sport TC1, while a fuel complication only placed the British ace at a further disadvantage.
However, a red-flag stoppage in the dying moments of Q1 ultimately prevented the Newmarket-domiciled racer from ascending further than 13th on the timesheets and graduating to Q2, which determines the starting positions from sixth to 12th.
“We’re suffering with the language barrier at the moment and I’m having to learn Russian quite quickly to solve issues and improve the car,” said Huff. “There was a really strong smell of fuel in the car due to a complication before qualifying and I had a huge vibration as soon as I left the garage, which prevented me from accelerating along the straights and pushing through the corners. It’s frustrating, but the team will pull the car apart once it’s out of parc ferme tonight and hopefully solve the problem.
“I start race one from 13th on the grid, but there’s a long way to go tomorrow . I’m relying on a good starting position in the reversed grid race to ensure we achieve a solid result before leaving Marrakech. I managed some good laps in free practice and the 1m45s I did in FP2 was on old tyres – it was a good lap, but I wasn’t giving absolutely everything. What’s doubly frustrating is that the run on my second set of tyres was cut short by a red flag. I was about a second up on my best time and would have comfortably made it into the top ten, even with the vibration. So it’s frustrating because we definitely have a lot more pace in the car.”
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