Rob Huff reflects on deadlifts and lifting trophies in Japan
Japan - 03/09/16
Race 1: 2nd
Race 2: 9th
I flew off to the Land of the Rising Sun last weekend (3-4 September, 2016) as the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) reconvened for the Race of Japan at Twin Ring Motegi.
My first stop was actually China for some networking and driver coaching with Teamwork Motorsport racers, Alex Hui and Sunny Wong. I also had an opportunity to shake down a car that will be used in the upcoming Macau Grand Prix, as the regulations have changed for this year and the team wanted my input, given that I’m an eight-time winner at Circuito da Guia. Just thought I’d drop that stat in again.
From there I travelled to Japan for Honda’s home race. It has been the Japanese manufacturer’s most successful WTCC season to date, so it was a very important weekend for everybody involved with the team and, as you would expect, there was a lot of promotional work for me and my teammates to do.
I visited the Honda research and development facility where 10,000 members of staff – the unsung heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes – are based.
Everyone wore white Honda uniforms and, after a long walk down a never-ending corridor, I got to meet a large majority of them.
It was actually a rather humbling experience because, in motorsport, people come and say hello, but they’re ‘motorsport people’. These individuals know their sport, but these were ‘Honda people’ and it was amazing to be exposed to their passion for the brand.
I also took a question and answer session at the facility with the help of a translator before meeting with the big bosses, including the President of Honda, so all in all it was very interesting and inspiring.
On the Thursday (1 September), I accompanied a number of my WTCC counterparts on a ‘sumo experience’. We stopped at a museum where we learnt all about the culture and history of this iconic Japanese sport, but, curiously, we didn’t get to see any actual sumo wrestling. I have to admit to being a little disappointed, as I really wanted a sumo-selfie!
I went from eating Chanko Nabe – a traditional sumo lunch consisting of fish, meat and vegetables, served in a golden pot – and training at Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo centre in Tokyo's famous sumo district, to pulling off a few winning kimirate-style moves myself in the WTCC Race of Japan at Twin Ring Motegi.
As always, the typical race weekend commitments began on Friday (2 September) and Castrol Honda Racing’s preparations proved effective, as the WTCC Race of Japan was very successful.
The Opening Race was good, but rear-end contact from Thed Björk in the Volvo made it tough for me to challenge for the win and I finished second in an all-important Honda one-two-three that was led by Norbert ‘Norby’ Michelisz.
It was particularly impressive that the podium lockout was achieved with the maximum 80kgs of ballast on-board our Civic Type-Rs and with the pressure of performing on Honda’s home soil. Ultimately, we did perform, but I wanted to be the one on the top step.
The Main Race was a tough one and there isn’t really a lot to write home about, as I finished where I started in ninth after my race was compromised by contact with Nicky Catsburg’s LADA.
Nevertheless, I’m now fourth in the Drivers’ standings on 178 points with one eye on Norby in fifth and the Citroen boys, who played a shrewd tactical game by allowing Yvan (Muller) to grab a few extra points – that makes it harder for me in the championship, but it’s to be expected.
At Honda, we’re pushing for ourselves. There aren’t any team orders and that’s the way we like it. We would never want to take a position we don’t deserve and it makes no sense for the WTCC’s loyal army of fans either. As a brand, we want to race.
However, my attention now turns to the Goodwood Revival and Spa Six Hours, before returning to my WTCC duties in the Race of China at the Shanghai International Circuit at the end of the month.
I’ll begin by manhandling an alluring Aston Martin Zagato a plucky Austin A35 and an evocative Lotus 19, as well as a priceless ‘CUT 7’ Jaguar E-Type Low Drag Coupé at the Revival, before hopping across the English Channel to the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
There I’ll have the pleasure of sharing a legendary Ford GT40 with my long-time friend and the car's owner Richard Meins and Chris Lillingston Price, before laying my hands on a colossal Ford Falcon and a BASTOS-liveried Ford Capri.
Year after year, drivers and fans come together to get all dewy-eyed at the Goodwood Revival and Spa Six Hours.
I relish the opportunity to drive unusual and spectacular machinery from motorsport’s golden era. I always have a tremendous time; exciting on-track battles are guaranteed and meetings like these reaffirm why I love racing. I hope to see you at Goodwood!