One of the stars of the 2004 BTCC season was undoubtedly the 2003 SEAT Cupra Champion Rob Huff, who grabbed his chance with the new SEAT team with both hands, taking two wins in a highly impressive debut season.

But Huff won't be back to woo the British fans again next season, having recently been announced as the final driver for the Chevrolet World Touring Car Championship programme. took the chance to ask Huff how excited he was at the move to the new series, and how much he had enjoyed his season in the BTCC...
Rob, coming after winning the SEAT Cupra Championship and a year in the BTCC you must be ecstatic at being given the chance to go to the World Championship.

Rob Huff:
Yeah, it might sound a little cheesy but it really is a dream come true for me. I've had the best couple of years of my life with SEAT, it's been fantastic for the experience and the whole character building aspect of it, so I really do owe a lot to SEAT.

I was just in the right place at the right time in the right championship with the Cupras and earned the huge prize that SEAT offered of a drive in the BTCC. I had a great season alongside Jason Plato who has taught me a lot and I've just had a great time with SEAT in general.
Next season it will be a totally new car with Chevrolet but a team that you know rather well, with RML having run the SEAT team in 2004. How big an influence was that on your move to the WTCC?

Rob Huff:
I think it will be a huge learning curve for everyone involved with the car for next season, as it's a brand new car and an unknown quantity in the World Touring Car series.

For me, RML and I were talking a while ago and they invited me to go and drive for them, which was an offer that I couldn't turn down. The World Championship is hugely attractive in itself and to go with a manufacturer such as Chevrolet is just an awesome opportunity for me. The car is looking fantastic and Chevrolet are really putting a lot of effort in to make this work. I have two very famous team-mates and I am looking forward to working with them.
It must have made you proud that a manufacturer like Chevrolet was interested in you after just one series of Touring Cars.

Rob Huff:
Yeah I was very surprised when I got the phone call from them, like I say it really is just a dream for me. SEAT and I were in talks for 2005 but we needed to find some money to run a third car in the BTCC and Chevrolet came along and made me an offer that I couldn't refuse. I've had great fun and some good success in my one year of British Touring Cars but RML are a great team and it will be an interesting learning curve for next year and beyond.
You mentioned your experienced team-mates earlier, Alain Menu and Nicola Larini. We spoke to Alain earlier in the year after he was named as the first driver with the team and he said that he felt 2005 would be a learning year to overcome any problems there may be and then the focus would be to win races and more from 2006. What are your aims for next season?

Rob Huff:
I think very similar to that, we've got to see. Obviously we don't know what the car is going to be like. It looks very good on paper and it should be very good but we could get out there and be a second off the pace or we could be half a second quicker - we just don't know yet. How we go will depend on that.

We said the same thing with SEAT this year. The car was an unknown, it was a European specification car going into the British series, and we'll go with much the same attitude. We'd like a little bit of champagne and silverware and it would be fantastic if that happened, but last season we ended up coming away with eleven race wins, something like 18 to 20 podiums between Jason and myself and it was a very successful season, so for me it will be very much the same sort of thing.

We need to get the car out of the bag and see what it goes like and then we can create a plan for the way it should pan out for us. It would be great if we could get a couple of podiums next season with Chevrolet and possibly use the reverse grid to our advantage, but we'll have to wait and see. RML are a fantastic team, as they have shown this year with SEAT and I think everyone is confident that if the car is capable of going then RML are the ones to do it.
And I'm guessing your ultimate aim is to follow another man who competed in a single season of British Touring Cars before moving to the ETCC and winning the title in Andy Priaulx?

Rob Huff:
Yeah definitely, that's the ideal thing isn't it, to have this year as a learning year and then in 2006 I could go out and possibly win the championship - that would be fantastic.

Andy has done a phenomenal job this year. He has always been a very, very good driver and he had landed on his feet a treat this year. He is going to be very competitive next season and hopefully by the end of the year we will be able to take it to BMW and Alfa Romeo.
With the WTCC being brought in for next season, some fans seem to be worried about the effect it could have on national championships like the BTCC. Obviously you yourself have now made the switch, we are expecting James Thompson to make the move to Alfa Romeo and there's talk that Anthony Reid could be on his way to Brilliance.

What kind of relationship do you think the WTCC and the BTCC, for example, can have? Do you think the WTCC could prove to be detrimental to the national championships?

Rob Huff:
It's a difficult one to answer, it's one of those things where we will just have to wait and see. For sure the title of being World Champion is a huge draw for any driver and the PR on the world stage is a huge draw for a manufacturers so I don't know really.

At the moment there are two manufacturers in SEAT and Vauxhall in the BTCC for next year. I hope it gets beiger and stronger and back on terms with where it used to be but you just don't know. Very sadly it could disappear, but I think 2004, everyone will agree, was a great season for the BTCC. It got lots of exposure, some fantastic racing and lots of different winners and that's what the public wants, so as long as they can take it to another level next season, which I think Alan Gow will do as he is very good at what he does, then hopefully the championship will survive and grow.
As you said there, 2004 was a fantastic season of racing in the BTCC. You came into it at the start with SEAT as something of an unknown quantity to touring car fans but your gung-ho attitude meant you became a fans favourite straight away.

Is it with a bit of a heavy heart that you leave the BTCC after just one season?

Rob Huff:
Like you say I had a fantastic season and I made a lot of friends, not just fans but drivers as well, and I really enjoyed the hands on involvement with the fans and that kind of stuff and for sure I had some great races this season and a lot of them will remain with me for the rest of my life.

It is unfortunate but like I say, the World Touring Car Championship is the title that I have always dreamt of having and I have been given this opportunity - and it is a huge opportunity - so I'm going to put everything I have, and everything I have learnt this year, into it and hopefully I can carry on with the same consistency of success.
I have a feeling this is a stupid question to ask, but what was the highlight of your 2004 season?

Rob Huff:
It's got to be my win at Snetterton hasn't it. Coming from eighth on the grid to lead by the second corner, in front of 300 of my family and friends on my home circuit just 15 minutes from my doorstep, and especially after the fact that the first two races of the day were a disaster, to come back and nail the third race and hold off Muller and Thompson made it the best race of my life.

Then you can add Brands Hatch and Croft, although there were lows such as Oulton Park when I had a little incident with Mr Collard but I had a fantastic year and hopefully I can carry that over to the world series.
You mentioned Brands Hatch, that final lap has got to live with you for a while too.

Rob Huff:
Yeah, again it's a race that I will never forget; it was unbelievable. I was in fourth place and I didn't get a great restart when the safety car went in. I was about three or four car lengths back from Yvan Muller, and I think probably luckily so, and that put me in the right place at the right time.

Unfortunately Jason got hit by Matt and I went round the outside of Matt then Yvan went up the inside of Jason and Jason took a hit that saw them both run wide and I was able to cheekily sneak through. I was screaming down the radio from turning into Surtees to take my first touring car race - it was something that I will be able to tell the grandchildren about!
You got the SEAT drive from winning the SEAT Cupra Championship. The man who won it in 2004, James Pickford, will take your place at SEAT in 2005. What can BTCC fans expect from him?

Rob Huff:
I think nothing less than what I delivered this year. James is a very good young driver as he has proven this season. He changed his attitude a lot from 2003 to 2004, he got his head down and really focused and he wanted to win, very much like I did in 2003. I think James is going to be a little 'pocket rocket' and I'm sure he will be a favourite with the fans and I'm sure he will go on to be very successful in whatever he does. He is a lovely lad and I wish him all the best.
So next season you'll be hoping that all the Huff fans will be out in force when the WTCC comes to Britain?

Rob Huff:
Yeah, I've got a few friends who have already booked flights and stuff and then obviously the race at Silverstone, which will be my home race in the WTCC, is something I'm looking forward to. I had a couple of good races there in the BTCC and put in a solid performance. I'm just looking forward to getting in the car in January, and it's only a couple of weeks away now!
Rob, thanks for your time and we'll look forward to seeing your talents on the World stage next season.

Rob Huff:
Thanks a lot.