Off the back of inarguably his finest campaign in the World Touring Car Championship to-date, Rob Huff is aiming for better than being merely best Brit in 2009 – he wants to be the best full stop.
Last season marked a watershed for the Englishman in the hotly-contested tin-top series, with two victories and four further rostrum finishes vaulting him to third place in the title chase – just a single point shy of the runner-up laurels, and comfortably clear of highly-rated and infinitely more experienced Chevrolet team-mates Alain Menu and Nicola Larini.
In so doing, Huff stole away three-time world champion Andy Priaulx's mantle as top-placed British driver in the WTCC, and staked his claim as a contender for glory in his own right – which, in a year when SEAT's dominance was all-too clear to see, was no mean achievement at all.
“Chevrolet took a big gamble on me back at the end of 2004, and I'm just trying to prove to them that they made the right decision in choosing me,” the 29-year-old reflected, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
ahead of the new campaign. “I just want to keep bettering myself all the time. We were third last year and I want to go better again this year, so we've just got to keep the ball rolling.
“Motivation-wise, I love motorsport and driving and always have done. I changed the way I looked at things in 2008 – I think that's why we came out as well as we did – and I'm going to keep that perspective going for this year and just work as hard as I can. We've got to make the car faster all the time because the diesel is very, very strong – the package that SEAT have got full stop, with the engine, the chassis and the drivers is very good.
“Certainly they did blitz everyone last year – for Yvan [Muller] to win it by 37 points in the end was serious. Considering we only get ten points for a race win, that was an awesome feat he achieved. He's a hell of a driver, but he for sure had the best car too. The FIA have obviously tried to slow it down a little bit, which needed to be done because the car was ridiculously fast and almost impossible to overtake.
“For sure, SEAT are going to be the ones that everyone's focussing on in 2009. You never know, though – BMW have had a very strong package for the last five years, and you don't know the development that they've been putting in so they might surprise everyone – or the Cruze might come out on top. It's going to be interesting. That's the thing about touring cars – you never quite know who's going to be where until you get to the first qualifying session. It's exciting.”
Indeed it is, and the Cruze to which Huff refers is Chevy's new challenger for 2009, and one of which much is expected. Whilst SEAT will undoubtedly enter the season as hot favourites to successfully defend their title, the man who clinched the Cupra Challenge honours in the Spanish manufacturer's one-make series six years ago is hopeful of perhaps springing his own surprise.
“It's a lot more stable than the old car and it's a lot more sensitive to set-up changes,” the ex-BTCC race-winner enthused. “Obviously we've got a lot of development work to do with it, but straight out-of-the-box we were pretty pleased and pretty impressed. We're a little bit behind with the whole testing programme because of what's happening in the economy at the moment, but we've just got to keep our heads down, work hard and hopefully we'll be on the pace when we get to the first race on 8 March.