Huff thwarted by new car issues, as hopes of debut pole come to nothing after much promise in Argentine WTCC season opener
“This is the best I have felt about a WTCC touring car in two years,” Huff explained to LADA SPORT ROSNEFT Team Boss Viktor Shapovalov after a promising free practice that demonstrated that the all-new LADA Vesta is as good as it looks and will provide the 2012 World Champion with a future chance at another World Title shot (7 March).
After a long winter since his last triumph winning his seventh Macau race in the LADA Granta; then what seemed equally long trip to the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo in Argentina, expectation was high for the LADA Vesta as ‘Huffy’ hit the track for free practice.
Immediately it was obvious that this new car was a game changer for LADA, a proper racecar that will give Huff the opportunity to run at the front with the support of his car and team and one that will allow him the opportunity to fully show his skills as a leading touring car driver.
Starting steadily and building into the car, Huff was solid in fifth place at the end of free practice, splitting the all conquering Citroens and mixing it the works Hondas and Chevrolets, focusing on set up and development work and exploring the limits of grip of both track and car in various guises.
Ahead of qualifying, all eyes were on the yellow cars and Huff, sporting a new livery himself with returning sponsors OCC LASIK and ICONIC BET, being part of it.
The first run in Q1 and third position was on the time sheets, new tyres and a second run saw Huff consolidate his position. Then a moment that shows true promise of the new Vesta saw Huff secure P1 with a full purple sector lap on the time sheets.
The pressure for the team and mechanics in having a true challenger on their hands was noticeable as temperatures soared both on track and in the car, as Huff struggled to keep cool ahead of the Q2 run.
With Q2 offering the opportunity for one flying run, Huff was out early and was three tenths up on his previous Q1 lap when the red flags came out for a gravelly incident involving Bennani on his Loeb Racing Citroen debut. Returning to the pits awaiting the restart, one sensed that maybe the chance of pole, or the top 5 shootout had gone. and so it proved as on resumption of the session the new Vesta developed a misfire and Huff limped back to the pits to leave him frustratingly 11th for both race starts tomorrow.
A glimmer of light from Huff’s misfortune being the securing of friend and teammate James Thompson, who secured Round 2 pole position after finishing P10 in qualifying.
“We know we’re not expecting to be in it to win it this year,” said Huff to the worldwide live TV audience. “But there is a lot of desire here from myself and the team at LADA SPORT ROSNEFT from the top to the bottom of the organisation and we have started well, lets see what we can achieve in the races tomorrow.”
Rounds 1 and 2 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) will take place in quick succession at 18.15 and 19.30 (CET) and will be broadcast live and in high definition on Eurosport, as well as being streamed online at www.fiawtcc.com.
For more on Rob Huff's racing activities, please visit the official www.robhuff.com website, 'like' his Facebook page or follow @HuffSport on Twitter.