Huff third fastest in farcical Austrian WTCC qualifying
Reigning Champion Rob Huff qualified third and eighth respectively for Rounds 9 and 10 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (Sunday 19 May) in what transpired to be a highly unusual qualifying session on Austria’s high-speed Salzburgring.
Relatively cool conditions during free practice ensured the drivers were able to push their Yokohama tyres and set times that were almost a second faster than last year’s pole lap on the superfast Salzburgring.
It was an all-Chevrolet affair in the top three places at the end of first practice. However, Huff was the best of the rest in fourth and his quickest time of 1m26.806s was just five tenths adrift of Yvan Muller’s fastest.
Huff continued to extract every ounce of performance from his ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport SEAT Leon WTCC in second practice, to break Chevrolet’s stranglehold at the top of the timesheets.
The 33-year old lapped the picturesque 4.24km circuit in 1m26.928s to end FP2 as the second quickest runner, behind former team-mate Muller in his RML-prepared Cruze.
In the first part of qualifying, a 1m27.128s was good enough for eighth and ensured Huff made it safely through to the ten-minute Q2 session, which decides the top twelve starting positions for both of Sunday’s races.
The second part of qualifying was mired in controversy and confusion. Huff set the third fastest time – 1m26.554s – on his first attempt and aimed to get a second flying lap in during the final minutes of the session.
However, he was unable to challenging the RML-prepared Chevrolets of Muller and Tom Chilton for the front-row.
All 12 Q2 graduates emerged from the pit lane with two minutes on the clock, but failed to cross the line before the chequered flag as the pace slowed dramatically while the drivers fought for the ideal slipstream.
The shenanigans means the results have been suspended pending the outcome of a stewards inquiry.
Huff currently holds third position and, despite the farcical conclusion to Q2, emerged from his ALL-INKL.COM-backed SEAT in a buoyant mood, saying: “I didn’t think we’d be anywhere near the Chevrolets this weekend because the circuit doesn’t play to the strengths of my ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport SEAT Leon, so to be within half a second of them in third place far outweighs my expectations.
“Everybody will be concerned about conserving the tyres during tomorrow’s races to avoid a repeat of last year, when 12 cars suffered punctures. The Chevrolets are obviously quick, but rain is forecast for later in the day, which will throw the cat among the pigeons. I’m confident that I can challenge for podiums.”
Eurosport will show a re-run of qualifying from the Salzburgring at 7.30 on Sunday 19 May, with the morning warm-up live from 7.45 and the two races later that same day from 16.00 and 17.00 respectively.
For more information on Rob Huff, please like his Facebook page or follow @Huffsport on Twitter.