WTCR Race 2 flash: Huff becomes 12th winner in 16 races in Sochi finale
Rob Huff scored his first win of the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup season in a frenetic and incident-packed Race 2 at WTCR VTB Race of Russia, as the final encounter of 2021 provided a gripping conclusion to the year.
Huff emerged from a gaggle of cars jostling for the podium to lead Frédéric Vervisch home, the Belgian securing second in the points with the runner-up spot at a damp Sochi Autodrom.
The action was non-stop from the start. Yvan Muller lost out from his pole position as Mikel Azcona shot into the lead, with Néstor Girolami also demoting the Frenchman. But Muller hit back later in the lap to snatch second place. Santiago Urrutia worked his way up to third, but not without picking up damage in the melee in the opening corners and the Uruguayan was forced to retire to the pits.
There was also trouble off the line as Gilles Magnus and Attila Tassi made contact under acceleration. Magnus’s Comtoyou Audi was left stranded on the start/finish straight, meaning the Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition safety car was called upon to allow it to be recovered.
Racing was due to resume on lap four. But as the field streamed into the penultimate turn as the Honda safety car pitted Muller ran hard into the back of Azcona, the damage forcing both out of the race. “I don’t know what happened. I’m sorry,” said a disappointed Muller.
Race 1 winner Azcona was devastated. “The car is totally destroyed,” he said. “I’m very disappointed. I don’t understand how it’s possible for a driver like Yvan Muller with such experience to do this. Very disappointing from him. He totally destroyed my race, so thank you very much.”
That left Girolami to lead the pack across the line, only for another accident to neutralise the race. Bence Boldizs and wildcard entry Kirill Ladygin made contact in the long Turn 3, the Zengő Motorsport Drivers’ Academy CUPRA slamming hard into the barrier. Boldizs walked away from the scene.
Racing resumed once again on lap seven with Girolami initially holding off Huff and Vervisch into Turn 2. But later around the lap at Turn 13 Huff pulled off a great pass to take the lead and opened up an impressive gap that would prove decisive as he became the 12th different winner from the 16 WTCR races this year.
“We deserved that after the year we’ve had, with seven DNFs,” said a delighted Huff. “What a way to go out at the end of the season. And we had a misfire, but still pulled it off. Absolutely brilliant.”
But there was plenty to be settled behind the Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición. Vervisch exerted big pressure on Girolami and finally found a way past with a great move through Turn 3 on lap 10. “I don’t know what to say, it has to sink in,” said Vervisch on his runner-up place to King of WTCR Yann Ehrlacher. “I should jump on the car because this is a mega achievement with a new car for this year.”
Fellow Comtoyou Audi driver Nathanaël Berthon completed the podium after a multi-car scrap that lasted for the duration. Attila Tassi came through from 12th on the grid to finish a fine fourth in his ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR, ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay and the new champion Ehrlacher, who repeated his sixth place finish from Race 1.
Girolami dropped to seventh, ahead of Norbert Michelisz (Hyundai), Tom Coronel (Audi) and Luca Engstler (Hyundai). Thed Björk finished in P11, ahead of Jordi Gené, the Spaniard making the finish despite being punted up the back by Gabriele Tarquini. It was a sad way for Tarquini’s WTCR career to finish as the Italian was forced to retire his BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse Hyundai Elantra N TCR with front-end damage after the collision on lap eight.