Rob Huff battled the Citroens and although that battle was lost, he still succeeded in securing a top five finish in race one.
Former Champion Rob Huff showed his quality by delivering LADA Sport LUKOIL’s best-ever result in the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at Circuit Paul Ricard in La Castellet, France on Sunday (20 April).
Things weren’t looking too bright for Huff as he sat in a lowly tenth place on the Round 3 starting grid, particularly with grey skies looming overhead, nine other TC1 cars lying between him and victory, and the two pace-setting Citroen C-Elysée WTCCs of Sebastien Loeb and José María Lopez at the back of the field serving penalties.
Maintaining position was thought to be the best Huff could hope for. However, ‘Huffy’ got a sensational start and passed cars tight against the pit wall, resisting the squeeze from Tiago Monteiro through the first series of corners to emerge from lap one in sixth place with Hugo Valente’s Chevrolet next on the road.
Focus soon turned to the recovering Citroens that had rampaged up the leaderboard unhindered and on to Huff’s tail.
Putting up as much resistance as possible, Loeb struggled to break down Huff’s defences for a lap or two, while the OCC LASIK-backed driver incredibly held Lopez at bay for a further four laps, until the Argentinean resorted to force to pass.
While the Citroens disappeared off into the distance, Huff set after Valente in the leading Campos Racing Chevrolet Cruze.
A car that had already enjoyed some success in Valente’s hands proved no match for the British ace in his LADA and sixth was reclaimed on lap ten, releasing Huff to go in pursuit of Norbert Michelisz’s Honda Civic for fifth position.
The gap to the Hungarian quickly diminished and the pass was carried out on the penultimate lap for Huff to cross the line in an impressive fifth place, to the delight of the flourishing LADA Sport LUKOIL team and his supporters cheering from the garage.
“This feels like a win,” said Huff. “I had to work hard to make that happen. It’s very frustrating but rewarding too when you have to push the equipment and yourself so hard to make it happen, but there was no way I was giving up easily today and I think I showed that to the Honda at the start!”
The second race saw normal service resume when rain and standing water – an effective performance-leveler – was replaced with a bone-dry track.
Starting 11th and battling throughout, Huff led the LADA trio and comfortably recorded a fastest lap that was a full 1.2s quicker than his teammates, but still some way off the pace of the Hondas, Chevrolets and Citroens.
Nevertheless, Huff showed his fighting spirit by again passing Valente and Michelisz in a race-long battle that eventually saw him finish in a valiant 11th place at the chequered flag.
Huff reflected on the weekend in a largely positive fashion, saying: “We pulled a great result out of the bag in race one, battled hard in race two and learnt a lot more about the LADA Granta Sport TC1 over the weekend. Hopefully, we can get some testing in before Hungary and find some more pace. I won at the Hungaroring in a SEAT against all odds last year, so anything is possible!”
Rob Huff Press Office