Rob Huff is bruised but OK after a high-speed crash at the start of the first race of the FIA World Touring Car Cup weekend at Vila Real, after starting from pole position.
Huff had secured his second pole of the year at the tough Vila Real street circuit in Portugal, topping the qualifying session just ahead of his Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen team-mate Mehdi Bennani.
Huff got away well at the start of the race, with Bennani running alongside his left side down into the right-hand Turn 1, but at the next corner the two drivers bumped wheels, which then caused the two cars to violently spin off into the barriers.
Huff’s Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR ripped into the barriers, destroying the front of the car with the engine becoming separated from the chassis, while Bennani’s car launched over the top and back down, with the chasing pack slamming into the two Volkswagens which were now blocking the circuit.
The race was red-flagged and suspended for two hours as nearly a dozen damaged cars were covered and the barriers were repaired for the restart.
The damage to the cars was substantial, with the team forced to withdraw from the remainder of the race weekend, meaning Huff leaves with a zero-point score on a weekend where the Golf had its best chance of taking two overall victories.
Rob Huff said:
“I feel sorry for the team, as this should have been a sensational weekend for us. The Golf GTI TCR was absolutely amazing around this track. The car was quick, Mehdi was quick and there with us, but it's just one of those things.
"We've just got to put this weekend behind us and look forward now to the next race in Slovakia. The cars were completely destroyed, so we have two new cars coming for the next round, but that means a lot more work for the guys to get them ready, so I'll do my best to make sure to repay them for their hard work at the next race.
"I'd like to say a huge thanks to Gabriele Tarquini. I was very winded after the crash and couldn't get out of my car, and with the engine oil spilling it was on fire, and he quickly came over and helped me get out of the car and stayed with me in the few minutes before the medical teams arrived. Also thanks to Yvan Muller, who also came to help out; it just shows that even though we're all rivals on the track, there's a great camaraderie between us all.
"I also want to say a thanks to all the fans out there. The number of messages of support have been overwhelming, and it's been very humbling to know there are so many people who are looking out for me."