Macau 2008: Huff triumphs after final lap carnage
16 November 2008
Rob Huff has won the last race of the World Touring Car Championship season after a chaotic final two laps that saw the three drivers ahead of him crash out.
A remarkable race of attrition that saw just ten cars from the original starting grid of 26 reach the finish line, Huff only led for a handful of corners after James Thompson, Augusto Farfus and Gabriele Tarquini all retired within a lap of each other.
Up until that point, the leading runners had had little to concern themselves with as Thompson led away from pole position, ahead of the typically fast-starting Farfus and Tarquini. Nicola Larini had been third, but was quickly punished for a blatant jump-start that had lifted him from ninth to second by the first corner.
The top three quickly broke away, with Farfus harrying the back of Thompson's Honda through the twisty part of the circuit, but being unable to get close enough out of the final corners to get a run on him down to Lisboa. In fact, Tarquini came closer to relieving Farfus of his second place, but the Brazilian defended strongly against the SEAT, the two briefly making contact on lap five.
Their tussle had given Thompson sufficient breathing space to try and ease away to what would have been an important second win of a season at a time when N.Technology are thought to be persuading Honda to increase their WTCC involvement next year.
However, it all unravelled with just over a lap to go when Thompson exited the Solitude Esses with a heavily damaged Accord. Thompson later confirmed that he was tagged into the barriers by Farfus.
His retirement promoted Farfus up into the lead, but his good fortune would last for just one lap longer when he too lost control of the BMW and clouted the barriers after seemingly losing the left-front wheel of his car, possibly due to his contact with Thompson.
It was the errant wheel that would spell Tarquini's demise too when he had nowhere to go but over it, the subsequent impact having an immediate effect on the SEAT as it slowed to a crawl towards the hairpin.
As carnage reigned around them, it was Huff who found himself in the lead of the race as he entered the final few bends. The Brit had worked his way up to fourth place when he overtook a laboured Jordi Gene on lap four, but he hadn't been close enough to make an impression on the leaders.
Nonetheless, he was the only driver to squeeze past the stricken Farfus and Tarquini, allowing him to scamper away and sprint to a second win of the season, while also Huff also guaranteed himself third position in the overall standings with the result.
Held up by Tarquini's coasting SEAT, newly crowned champion Yvan Muller was nonetheless able to pick himself through the wreckage to finish a rewarding second, while Priaulx settled for third at the end of his best race weekend of the season.
Race one winner Alain Menu was heading for fourth position when he too joined the final lap casualty list, the Swiss driver plunging the Chevrolet into the barriers close to the finish. It remains to be seen whether Menu's incident, as well as Farfus's, may have been caused by debris from Thompson's ailing Honda as he attempted to drag it to the pit lane.
Rickard Rydell, meanwhile, deserves a big mention for his drive to fourth place from 25th on the grid, particularly as the Swede didn't even capitalise too much on the misfortune of others having battled his way up into eighth place after just four laps. The same can be said for Alex Zanardi, who managed to finish in fifth place having started from the pit lane.
Indeed, the high attrition rate presented some rather unusual results for less fancied drivers, with Franz Engstler taking Independent honours for the first time with a superb run to sixth position overall, while Manibu Orido kept it out of the barriers to secure two precious points in the fourth Chevrolet Lacetti.
Eighth, and therefore the final point, meanwhile went the way of Matthew Marsh, the Hong Kong driver doing a marvellous job to get on the score sheet for Weichers-Sport, albeit over a minute behind the leaders. Andrey Romanov and Ibrahim Okyay were the only other finishers.
Away from the final lap dramas, Jorg Muller ended his season in disappointment when he got caught up in Andre Couto's accident at Lisboa, the local driver ensuring N.Technology come away from the event with a substantial repair bill when he crashed heavily into the barriers.
Gene, Larini, Tiago Monteiro and Tom Coronel all retired with mechanical problems, while Felix Porteiro didn't even start the race.
In the final standings, Muller comes away from Macau as the undisputed title winner, finishing 26 points ahead of Tarquini, while Huff misses out on the runners-up spot by just a single point. Outgoing champion Priaulx is classified in fourth, with Rydell fifth.