As WTCC testing concluded this afternoon, a clear favourite has emerged. Rob Huff topped the afternoon session to make it four from four. The Brit set a fastest time of 1:52.600, just a tenth slower than the morning session. The other story of the session was the Hondas finally showing some of their pace. Tiago Monteiro popped his Civic into 4th with a 1:53.509, Norbert Michelisz was less than a tenth behind his team mate. Another shock was provided by Tom Coronel, setting the second fastest time of the afternoon. Even though, he was still 0.625 behind the Citroen driver. It would be another Citroen in third as fellow Brit Tom Chilton put in a 1:53.340.
“It’s only testing and counts for nothing but it gives me confidence that what we’re doing and the way we’re learning the car is in the right direction,” said Huff. “I feel very happy with the car and the team did a great job. We were working through a test plan which doesn’t mean we were putting everything together to be as quick as we can, but we completed a lot of kilometres and everything worked. It’s as simple as that.” That statement could worry his rivals, if indeed there is more to come from the Citroen.
Taking the fastest laps from each session over the past two days, Huff has a huge margin over his rivals. He was the only driver to break the 1:53 barrier with a fastest time was 1:52.497. His closest challenger was Tom Coronel in his Chevrolet over 0.75s behind the Brit. The rest of the field is extremely close. There was just 0.35 seconds between second and seventh. Mehdi Bennani and Tom Chilton finished 3rd and 4th less than a tenth behind Coronel. Rookie driver Yann Ehrlacher came home fifth in only his second day in the car. The young gun was 0.867 behind Huff and just a tenth behind Coronel. Hopefully a sign of things to come.
The final Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen of John Filippi finished the test down in ninth. The young French driver was 8 tenths behind his team mates, in a car he had never driven before. It remains to be seen if he can extract the most from his new car, and beat the restuls he had in his Chevrolet last season.
Honda were 6th and 7th fastest, with Monteiro just in front of Michelisz. They were also over a second behind the pace setting Citroen, something the team will not be happy with. The team spent most of their time testing new parts, only running at pace during the final test session. The final Honda of Ryo Michigami was slowest overall on a 1:54.682, over 2 seconds behind Huff.
Volvo would also have a relatively tough time, with each of their cars encountering problems over the 2 days. Muller and Girolami didn’t set a time during the second day, despite completing many laps. Girolami’s time on the first day of 1:54.107 was good enough for seventh. Four time champion Muller was Tenth overall 2 tenths behind his team mate. Muller was filling in for Nicky Catsburg whose GT program prevented him from taking part in the test. Thed Bjork did record times on the second day, however it didn’t beat his 1:54.470 from day 1. That left him eleventh fastest.
The pace of Huff could be extremely worrying for his rivals. The only champion on the grid has a clear advantage over the rest of the field as it stands. However, we have not seen the true pace of the Hondas, after their lack of full pace running. Will Huff be able to keep ahead of his old team and lead Munnich to championship glory? The answer will come soon enough. The season opener is in Morocco on April 8th & 9th. All of the action will be broadcast live on Eurosport.