Macau Preview: Huff On Brink Of World Championship Glory

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Rob Huff - Photo Credit: FIA WTCC

Britain’s Rob Huff goes into this weekend’s traditional World Touring Car Championship season finale on the notorious streets of Macau with a 35-point advantage at the head of the drivers’ standings with 55 left up for grabs.

The Cambridge ace stole the initiative in the title race at the previous meeting in Shanghai, when his Chevrolet teammate and defending champion Yvan Muller experienced a torrid weekend.

Forced into retirement in race one after contact in the opening turns, the Frenchman was classified outside of the points in race two after being penalised for knocking the third Chevrolet driver and title contender Alain Menu out of the lead at turn one.

After finishing second to Menu in race one, Huff inherited the victory in race two thanks to Muller’s antics. That gave him a lead of 35 points over Menu and 41 over Muller, who will need a miracle to land a third straight title and fourth WTCC crown in all.

Huff will be boosted going to Macau by the strength of his record in the event known historically as the Guia Race. Last year he won both races, and he also won a race there in each of the previous three years. He has claimed pole position there on the last three occasions.

When it comes to qualifying form though, Menu is the man to beat. The Swiss veteran is on a streak of three straight pole positions, and repeating that on the tight Macau circuit could be crucial to claiming the near-maximum points he’ll need to beat Huff.

If Huff were to win the title, it would be a suitable end to Chevrolet’s time in the WTCC, Huff having been racing in the series with the American brand since it debuted with the Lacetti model in 2005. He was third overall in 2010, second to Muller in 2011 and will now hope he can go one better in 2012. All three Chevrolet drivers remain without a drive confirmed anywhere for 2013.

Rob Huff - Photo Credit: FIA WTCC

Huff is a regular visitor to the top step of the podium in Macau, including twice last year – Photo Credit: FIA WTCC

It’s not just the overall drivers’ championship that needs to be decided in Macau – there’s also the Yokohama Trophy battle. BMW driver Norbert Michelisz has led the way for the majority of the year ahead of SEAT’s Pepe Oriola, and heads the Spanish youngster by 12 points.

However, the Hungarian star has had a couple of poor weekends in Japan and China, while fellow BMW driver Stefano D’Aste has been on the form of his life, taking three straight victories. That began with his second overall victory of the year in the second Suzuka race, while in Shanghai he was third and fourth outright.

To encourage the independent drivers to make the long trip to Macau, double points are on offer. That means there are a maximum of 43 available, with D’Aste sitting only four points further behind Oriola. Michelisz has strong previous form in Macau though, having taken an overall victory on his first visit in a SEAT in 2010.

The busy schedule of the Macau Grand Prix means the action starts on Thursday with a 30 minute testing session for the WTCC at 06:40 GMT.  Two practice sessions take place at 00:30 and 04:15 on Friday ahead of qualifying at 06:35. On Sunday the two nine lap races take place at 03:05 and 04:20, with live coverage on Eurosport.

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Peter joined the TCF team in September 2010 and covers GP2 and GP3 along with WTCC and Formula Two. You can find him on twitter at @PeteAllen_
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