Kremlins and gremlins leave Huffy frustrated in Moscow
LADA Sport LUKOIL’s Rob Huff had hoped to deliver in qualifying for Rounds 11 and 12 of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) on the team’s home soil at Russia’s Moscow Raceway (7 June).
Having spent some time with the team in Moscow, where he took part in a photo opportunity in the shadow of the Kremlin on Red Square, Huff arrived at Moscow Raceway 80km North of the Russian capital with a good degree of optimism that he could turn a good result for his employers.
However, while there has undoubtedly been an improvement in the pace of the LADA Granta Sport TC1 since the beginning of the 2014 season, a series of difficulties prevented Huff from realising his true potential in free practice and qualifying at Moscow Raceway on Saturday (7 June).
Sidelined by a gearbox failure after completing just two laps in free practice one, Huff could only watch on from the back of the LADA Sport LUKOIL garages as the team worked at replacing the major components of his Granta’s gearbox in time for second practice two hours later.
The former World Champion was able to contribute competitive lap times with his car working well during the initial stages of FP2. He posted the ninth fastest time to get within a few tenths of the main TC1 pack, until a recurrence of his earlier gearbox problems forced him into the pits early.
A heavy rain shower fell during the build-up to Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session, although the standing water quickly dissipated in the high temperatures, denying Huff and his LADA Sport LUKOIL team a welcome performance leveler
The Englishman, backed by Canadian laser eye surgery specialist, OCC LASIK, knew that the still damp track surface would make the initial qualifying runs redundant and opted to hold fire in the pit lane after completing a single out-lap.
Huff eventually left the pits mid-session after being serviced by the LADA mechanics, posting his best time of the day – 1m40.6s – and going tenth fastest as the rest of the field prepared for their final runs of Q1.
As the Newmarket-domiciled racer’s Granta TC1 sat on the pit apron, oil seeped from the car and told of a further gearbox issue.
Undeterred, Huff returned to the track to set a green first sector and looked set for further improvements, when the oil leak spread onto the rear tyres to cause a severe lack of grip.
Prevented from continuing his charge, the 2012 WTCC Champion quite literally saw his shot at a top ten grid slot slipping from his grasp and Q1 concluded with him in 14th position, but still ahead of his teammates, James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy
Huffy, now acclimatising to the pattern his season is taking, was still as upbeat as ever, saying: “The car was good when it was working. That, combined with some of the less experienced drivers finding the Moscow Raceway tricky, was really giving us a genuine chance of a top ten today. I’m sure that I had the necessary three tenths to get the car into Q2, so it’s such a shame things didn’t hold together for me to show the Russian fans some success on behalf of the team. That said, let’s see what we can do in the races tomorrow. The team will put the issues with the gearbox behind us and we can push hard for a good result in Russia.”
Rounds 11 and 12 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) from the Moscow Raceway can be watched live and in high definition on Eurosport at 13:15 and 14:25 Russian time (BST +3 hours).
For more information on Rob Huff's racing activities, please visit the official www.robhuff.com website, 'like' his Facebook page or follow @HuffSport on Twitter.