Race Archive 2013
Reigning WTCC Champion, Huff, takes consolatory fourth place in Slovakia
Reigning Champion, Rob Huff, took a consolatory fourth place in the second FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) race in Slovakia, following a wretched start to proceedings on Sunday (28 April).
At a bright and sunny Slovakiaring, a bumper crowd lined the track to witness what promised to be two highly eventful WTCC races, following action-packed and tumultuous free practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday.
But while the weather was bright, the mood inside the ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport camp was somewhat downcast.
In yet another bitter blow to Huff’s title defence, he was slapped with a grid penalty for Sunday’s opening WTCC encounter, after his SEAT Leon failed a post-qualifying ride height check.
As a consequence, the Newmarket-based racer was demoted from seventh to 17th on the race one grid and forced to re-evaluate his goals and aspirations for the day in Slovakia.
Alongside Munnich Motorsport team boss Rene Munnich for the rolling start, 33-year old Huff hoped to exploit the pace of his SEAT Leon WTCC and his knowledge of the Slovakian track to scythe back up to the points-paying positions.
By the completion of lap one, he had fought his way to 14th place and was in the wake of a gaggle of cars that included Lada Sport Lukoil’s James Thompson and the BMWs of Mehdi Bennani, Stefano D’Aste and Fredy Barth.
A determined Huff patiently waited for a gap to emerge and spotted his opportunity on lap three, nipping past Thompson into Turn 2 after his fellow countryman was compromised behind the brawling Beemers.
However, Huff’s miserable day continued, as the slightest of deviations off the clean racing line while barrelling into Turn 1 for the fifth time, saw the Briton lose grip and skate wide onto the gravel.
Fortunately, the reigning World Champion maintained enough momentum to dig his way out of trouble and return to the track, albeit down in 17th behind team-mate Marc Basseng.
The team hoped for a significant shift in fortunes during the day’s second race, with Huff starting near the sharp end of the pack in fourth place.
From a standing start, Huff got a clean getaway and snatched third into Turn 1, but it wasn’t long before former Champions Yvan Muller and Gabriele Tarquini were nipping at his heels.
With his sleeves rolled up, the Newmarket-based racer continued his relentless pursuit of second-placed Pepe Oriola.
Well aware that he’d have his work cut out to defend his position, Huff used the Oreca-engined SEAT’s punch out of the corners to see off Muller, but was briefly demoted to third when the charging Frenchman got underneath him at Turn 1.
Demonstrating his sheer class and determination, Huff immediately cut back underneath Muller at the exit to reclaim the position under braking for the next turn, modulating the throttle through the bend to ensure he kept a tight line and didn’t run out of road at the exit.
He was soon back on terms with second-placed Oriola and was quick to depose the Spaniard on the following lap.
Huff’s move also paved the way for both Muller and Tarquini to follow him through, but the Munnich Motorsport driver stood firm in second until he went too deep into the long right-hander at Turn 1 with around three laps to go.
Both Muller and Tarquini needed no second invitation and demoted Huff to fourth place, which is where he stayed until the chequered flag – his best result of the 2013 season so far.
“I’m a bit gutted to have lost that second place to Yvan (Muller) and Gabriele (Tarquini),” said Huff. “It would have been a fantastic result for my ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport team and I in only our sixth race together and I really thought I had the position covered.
“The team has worked tirelessly to make the car more competitive and deserved a podium result. We had a lot of understeer in the first race but nailed the set-up in race two and the SEAT was a dream to drive.
He continued: "It was a fraught race, though. Intense, but incredibly exciting! I'd obviously have liked to have finished second, but you have to take the positives. To end up fourth and in amongst the Hondas and Chevrolets provides us with a lot of hope and excitement moving forwards to Hungary.”
The FIA WTCC will resume in Hungary in one week’s time (4-5 May), when Budapest’s spectacular Hungaroring plays host to Rounds 7 and 8 of the 2013 season.
For more information on Rob Huff, please like his Facebook page, or alternatively you can follow @Huffsport on Twitter.