Solid points for Huff in damage limitation exercise at Salzburgring

20/05/13 Race Archive 2013

Solid points for Huff in damage limitation exercise at Salzburgring

- Race 1: Race 2: Race 3:

In a damage limitation exercise, Rob Huff achieved two solid points finishes in Rounds 9 and 10 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at Austria’s picturesque Salzburgring (19 May).

No fewer than 15 penalties, including fines and grid drops, were handed out after qualifying, which turned into a slow procession as drivers jostled for the perfect slipstream – critical for a rapid lap time around the high-speed Salzburgring.

This produced an unusual grid for Round 9 with many of the championship frontrunners towards the tail end of the field; Huff, who originally qualified third, was handed a ten-place grid penalty for the first race, dashing his hopes a podium finish at the scenic Austrian venue.

Huff slotted in behind title rival Yvan Muller away from the rolling start and planned to use the slipstream from the Frenchman’s Chevrolet to scythe past those ahead of him.

The reigning World Champion was forced down the escape road at the first chicane as the pack converged on the first Emcokurve chicane, before tucking in behind Muller.

A move on Charles Ng’s BMW on lap two ensured Huff of tenth place and he swiftly set after Mikhail Kozlovskiy’s LADA Granta Sport.

The Russian driver defended well but appeared vulnerable to the advancing Huff. Both Kozlovskiy and Huff used a superb tow to breeze past Franz Engstler’s BMW, although the opportunistic ALL-INKL.COM SEAT driver also took the opportunity to duck underneath the LADA for eighth place.

From lap five, Huff had to take more of a defensive approach with the second RML Chevrolet of Tom Chilton in his wake. However, the Newmarket-based racer also had seventh place, held by the lead LADA of James Thompson, in his sights.

Huff spotted his opportunity to depose Thompson, but had to demonstrate his supreme car control skills when the LADA racer tried to reclaim seventh with an over-exuberant lunge into the banked Fahrer Lagerkurve.

Thompson’s impatience ultimately cost him two positions, as it opened the door for the charging Chilton, who also got a great tow on Huff soon after on lap nine.

Huff forced his fellow Briton to take the perilous outside line through the long right-hander by hugging the apex, but was eventually punted out of seventh place when a nudge from Chilton sent him spearing across the first right-left chicane.

With significant damage to his SEAT’s flat floor, 33-year old Huff nursed his car home in a consolatory eighth place.

However, with only a brief hiatus between races, the damage sustained in the opening encounter meant Huff’s speed and stability through the high-speed corners – of which there are many on the Salzburgring – was compromised in the day’s final race.

The Munnich Motorsport driver squeezed every last drop of performance from his wounded SEAT, surging through the centre of Michel Nykjaer and Alex MacDowall away from the grid.

Unfortunately, any gains made off the start were negated when Nykjaer, Muller and MacDowall drafted back past Huff’s ailing SEAT Leon to demote him to ninth place.

The unrelenting Huff sensed an opportunity to reclaim at least one position from Gabriele Tarquini, whose Honda Civic appeared to be faltering as tyre wear became a factor in the latter half of the 12-lap race.

Huff had to defend from Tom Coronel’s ever-improving rear-wheel-drive BMW, while also attacking Tarquini. He employed various tactics in a bid to defeat the Italian, but the touring car veteran drove a canny race to see off Huff and retain track position.

“This weekend at the Salzburgring was almost as tough as I expected for my ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport team and I,” said Huff. “I had a good go in the first race and made up a lot of ground from my starting position, but the damage I sustained when Chilton nudged me across the chicane meant I was a sitting duck to the Chevrolets in race two.

“Given that I originally qualified third, I’m confident I could have achieved a podium. But you have to roll with the punches in this game and I think it was a relatively good piece of damage limitation in the end. While it is slightly deflating after winning in Hungary, I’m not overly disappointed with the results.”

Huff lies fifth in the Drivers’ standings with 77 points as the FIA World Touring Car Championship heads to Russia’s Moscow Raceway in three weeks’ time (8-9 June).

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