Rob Huff takes historic tenth win in Macau
Rob Huff claimed a record-breaking tenth victory around the streets of Macau on Saturday, living up to his nickname of the "King of Macau" in a weekend of incident-heavy races.
Rob won the first of two races during the weekend, and was briefly classed as the winner of the second, coming out of a mandated two-week isolation on arrival to jump into a brand-new car for him, the MG 6 XPOWER TCR.
Joining the SAIC MG squad in order to improve their championship chances, Rob found the limit as early as Friday's practice sessions, leading the way as he familiarised himself with the Chinese car carrying the name of the famous British motoring brand.
In qualifying on Saturday morning, Rob took a sensational pole position on his final flying lap, outqualifying his former World Touring Car rival Ma Qing Hua by 1.9 seconds. Also a record, in that it was Rob's tenth pole position around the famous street circuit.
In the afternoon's race, Rob dropped behind Ma at the start, but was able to dive back down the inside of the Chinese driver on the way into the 90-degree right-hander at Lisboa, and was able to hold him off for the remainder of the race, which was largely run behind the safety car due to various accidents further down the order.
Rob's win on Saturday helped secure MG XPOWER the TCR China teams' championship, but more importantly, would be his tenth around the Guia circuit - a run of wins which started back in 2008 - and puts him one clear of motorcycle legend Michael Rutter in the roster of all-time number of race wins.
On Sunday, Rob was set to repeat, again dropping behind Ma at the start, Rob had a good run at the Chinese driver at the fastest corner in motorsport, the Mandarin bend - which is taken flat out - but Ma appeared to lose speed in the corner and was lightly tagged by Rob who was sitting in his slipstream; enough to spin Ma out and into the barriers, which brought out the red flag.
When the race resumed some 40 minutes later after the barriers were repaired, Rob pulled away again but the race was soon red-flagged and abandoned once more due to another incident at Mandarin. Rob was classed as the winner, until the officials confirmed Rob would receive a 30-second penalty for the incident, dropping him to 23rd position.
Still scoring points for MG, Rob's performance on Sunday also helped secure the MG 6 XPOWER TCR the models' title in the TCR China championship, meaning three key targets were achieved by the Cambridge-born driver at this year's Macau Grand Prix, making the 14-day solitary hotel room confinement all the more worth it.
Huff's tenth Macau win concludes a season in which the Briton also won the STCC TCR Scandinavia championship on his first attempt, underlining Rob's ability to adapt to new teams, new tracks, and new cars in his first year away from the world championship.
Rob Huff said:
“I’m really happy with our weekend and to win ten races in Macau and to add to our tally has been something we’ve been chasing for a few years now.
“There’s been a lot of pressure on me this weekend with a lot of expectations. To go through the 14-day quarantine, and then to achieve this win is a great result and really rewards the effort everyone has made.
“In the races, we knew the MG doesn’t have as good a launch system as the Lynk & Co, so we lost out to Ma (Qing Hua) in both races at the starts, but in Race 1, I was able to get back past him before Lisboa. In Race 2 he didn’t make it so easy, and I had to follow him around the lap.
“Then on the second lap I had a good run on him into Turn 2, and he saw me coming and seemed to slide and to slow. I tried to move my car, but at 220km/h, the car was already quite unstable.
"Unfortunately, we were found guilty of "avoidable contact", and given a 30-second penalty, which of course in a race which ended under a red flag, means we drop to pretty much last.
"I don't think there's anything I could have done to avoid it - and the accident was in no way intentional - but I'm glad the driver's OK.
"It's been great to be here in Macau and claim my tenth race win around the Guia circuit yesterday, and achieve MG XPOWER's goals of winning both the teams' championship yesterday, and the models' championship today."