Rob Huff excited by prospects with Munnich Motorsport in World Touring Car Championship
PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 April 2017
New team for Cambridge driver for new season
Thirteen may be unlucky for some, but Rob Huff believes that it could prove to be a magic number.
A self-confessed “veteran” of the World Touring Car Championship, the 37-year-old Cambridge-based driver will be heading into the new campaign with the same enthusiasm as when he joined for the inaugural season in 2005.
And Huff makes the case that his excitement for the 2017 campaign – which starts this weekend in Morocco – is greater than it has ever been.
Despite still pretending to be the rookie, Huff is one of only two people that have done every year since the world touring cars started – the other being Tom Coronel – and he has also driven every car on the grid, apart from the Volvo.
But it is his link-up with an old friend in Münnich Motorsport to drive an ex-factory Citroën C-Elysée that leaves him eagerly-anticipating the next seven months.
Huff drove for the family-run team the year after winning the WTCC crown with Chevrolet and, after spells with Lada and Honda, he is back with the German outfit, with added impetus.
“Every year presents different challenges,” said Huff. “When I joined Lada I knew that if I decided to stay there long term then in the future there was a possibility of winning.
“But I knew certainly in the first couple of years that there wouldn’t be a possibility of another world championships so you have to find other motivations, and that’s obviously quite difficult.
“It’s always difficult but what I can say about this year, with the testing we have done so far and the way the car is driving, I am more excited – not motivated because the motivation has always been there as I love my job.
“For instance, qualifying in P10 and getting a reverse grid pole for Lada was literally like winning a race with the celebrations that went on.
“The motivation is always there but there is no doubt that I am more excited about this year than probably any year that I’ve ever done.”
That does feel like a bold statement from Huff given the success that he has enjoyed in the championship, let alone the title win five years ago.
He is able to put his thoughts into context though, when explaining that at Chevrolet they had the best car on the grid, but his team-mates – Alain Menu and Yvan Muller – were two of the best touring car drivers around.
So there was always a fight on Huff’s hands for superiority.
“This year, I know I’ve got the best car and I haven’t got team-mates or people, other than driving a Citroen, of the level of Alain Menu and Yvan Muller, so I genuinely think that no-one has done enough to catch the Citroen,” said Huff.
“Having driven it now I understand exactly how they have managed to win three world championships so easily. The car is just absolutely phenomenal.
“They’ve not just stepped it up a level, they’ve gone into a new atmosphere with it. It’s just unbelievably beautiful to drive.
“I cannot fault the car. With our six test days, we’ve topped all six. I’ve got no pressure of driving for a manufacturer, it’s a privately-run team.
“It’s all thanks to Rene Munnich that we’re going to be on the grid this year with the best car and with the best opportunity I’ve ever had of winning a world championship.”
The one-car team first came into the championship when Huff drove a SEAT Leon for them in 2013, when they went up against the might of the Chevrolets. Munnich Motorsport have had the new Chevrolets for the last three years, but it has not proved quick enough, so owner Munnich has brought the Citroen – Muller’s car from last year – from the works team.
That is one of the reasons why Huff believes he owes Munnich a debt of gratitude.
“The main reason I’m so excited about this year, and there are many reasons, is I’m back with a private team that I love,” he said. “To me, the guys there are the best guys in the world.
“The boss, Rene, saved me in 2013. I literally owe the last five years of my life to him because without him I wouldn’t be back with him again.
“He has invested in this Citroen for me, and brought me the fastest car on the grid – the car that has won the championship for the last three years.
“The combination of everything is very fresh and very enlightening.”
And reflecting on the last 13 years, Huff admits that he could only dream about the success that he has enjoyed.
“It’s difficult to make it as a professional, what’s even harder is to stay there,” he said,
“In the first eight years of the championship, I drove for one manufacturer and life was very comfortable until that manufacturer stopped and then all of a sudden you’re world champion and you don’t have a drive.
“It’s almost like musical chairs but ultimately I’m just thankful that every year I seem to be back there and seem to make friends along the way.
“People want me to drive for them and there is no doubt now that I’m in more demand than I’ve ever been.”