Puncture robs reigning WTCC Champion Huff of podium in USA

09/09/13 Race Archive 2013

Puncture robs reigning WTCC Champion Huff of podium in USA

- Race 1: Race 2: Race 3:

A puncture denied reigning Champion Rob Huff a potential podium finish at California’s Sonoma Raceway, the venue for Rounds 17 and 18 of the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship (7-8 September).

With its swoops and undulations and an abundance of overtaking opportunities, the scenic 4.03km Sonoma Raceway lends itself well to the World Touring Car Championship’s (WTCC) cut and thrust style of racing.

Huff, a race winner on the WTCC's maiden visit to Sonoma in 2012, recorded a time of 1m46.423s to go second fastest in the first free practice session, slotting in between the works Honda of Tiago Monteiro and the quickest Chevrolet, piloted by Pepe Oriola.

The German ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport outfit was hopeful after completing a successful testing programme, although Huff was careful not to raise false hope going into the crucial two-part qualifying session and tempered his own expectations.

The 32-year old comfortably graduated to the second part of qualifying – which determines the top 12 starting positions – where he took his turbocharged SEAT Leon to the seventh fastest time.

The undulating American circuit – located in California’s spectacular wine country – glistened in an early autumn heat wave, as Huff and his WTCC counterparts prepared for the rolling start of Round 17 on Sunday (8 September).

From the inside of the fourth row of the grid, Huff retained seventh place as the pack converged on Turn 1.

The Newmarket-domiciled driver latched on to the tail of Gabriele Tarquini’s works Honda, while his ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport team mate Marc Basseng kept Tom Coronel at bay during the opening two laps.

With a need to preserve his tyres, Huff’s challenge on sixth-placed Tarquini gradually faded and Coronel’s ROAL Motorsport BMW 320 TC soon loomed large in the Briton’s rear view mirrors.

The rear-wheel-drive BMW’s superior traction out of slow turns forced Huff to fight a rear-guard action.

The reigning Champion granted Coronel no quarter in a valiant defence of seventh position, but was eventually deposed with only a few laps remaining, when a nudge from the Dutchman sent him wide at Turn 7.

Huff lined-up third for Round 18 and, from a standing start, went wheel-to-wheel with Zengo Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz.

Tarquini and Mehdi Bennani in the Proteam Racing BMW led from the front row in the opening laps but a right-front puncture took him out of contention before he could mount a challenge.

That he re-joined the race proved academic, as the short 13-lap sprint race provided little chance of making up the ground lost while touring into the pits for a lengthy tyre change.

Huff was classified in 20th place when the chequered flag fell on the WTCC's American adventure and has subsequently been relegated to sixth in the overall championship standings.

“Our run of misfortune continues,” said a dejected Huff. “I had a great battle with Tom Coronel in the first race and there was absolutely no way he was coming past me without giving me a tap. Tyre degradation was always going to be a concern for all us front-wheel-drive runners; track temperatures soared to over 50 degrees Celsius, so to keep the rear-wheel-driven BMW behind for so long and cross the finish in eighth is pretty good.

“Suffering a puncture in race two was quite unfortunate. I reckon we would have had the pace to challenge for the win, or at least maintain third place. It has obviously had an impact on my championship position and I can only hope that we experience a change of fortunes in Japan. The fight is still on!”

Rounds 19 and 20 of the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) will be held on the legendary Suzuka circuit in Japan (21-22 September).

For more information on Rob Huff's racing activities, please 'like' his Facebook page or follow @Huffsport on Twitter.