With two victories to his name and third position in the final standings – top non-SEAT driver – meaning he took over Andy Priaulx's mantle as leading British representative, 2008 was truly a breakthrough season for Rob Huff in the World Touring Car Championship. Now, he makes clear, he wants to 'keep the ball rolling' in 2009 as he aims to finish two spots higher still.
Huff entered the campaign as, in many observers' eyes, the least-fancied of the three Chevrolet drivers, with his team-mates Alain Menu and Nicola Larini boasting between them two British Touring Car Championship crowns and title success in both the DTM and Italian Touring Car Series.
Moreover, there would be no points from the opening four races of 2008 at Curitiba in Brazil and Puebla in Mexico, but when the 29-year-old did open his account – at Valencia in May – he did so in style, with victory in race one and a strong second place from eighth on the grid in race two.
His season had suddenly been kick-started, and with a further four rostrums and twelve top five finishes from the remaining 18 outings – including a somewhat fortuitous and opportunistic triumph in the Macau finale in November – the former SEAT Cupra Cup UK Champion would go on to end proceedings just one point shy of the silver medal in the championship chase, and 33 and 39 markers clear respectively of Menu and Larini. Point made – with interest.
“I was very happy,” he reflected, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
. “That was all I could ask for really. The first thing you obviously want to do is beat your team-mates, the second thing is be the best driver of your nation and we managed both, so I was very, very happy with that.
“It was a really tough year; the diesels were ever-so strong, and it was looking at one point – certainly early on in the season – that they were going to wipe the floor with everyone. I think with Yvan [Muller] winning it by pretty much three race wins, points-wise they did wipe the floor with everyone, but we just managed to keep consistent, score good points at almost every meeting and finish on a real high in Macau by winning the last race. We secured third in the championship, top Brit, and we just want to keep the ball rolling now.”
There were inevitably peaks and troughs along the way, with a certain victory on home turf at Brands Hatch being snatched away from him by a puncture, but on the whole it was, as the erstwhile BTCC ace acknowledges, 'a cracking year'.
Moreover, having spent the past two seasons somewhat in the shadow of his illustrious team-mates, Huff finally emerged as a star in his own right in 2008, never once missing the top ten on the starting grid and proving that he is every bit a match for two former champions – maybe even a champion himself in 2009...
“I think Valencia, the third round of the year, where we came away with 18 points,” he replied, when asked about his 2008 highlights. “Chevrolet wiped the floor with everyone that weekend, I think predominantly down to the fact that we had the lightest cars on the grid because the three of us hadn't scored any points [up until then]. I obviously won the first race and came from eighth to second in the second race, and Alain won the second race. That was a fantastic weekend.