Huff's double victories prove too little, too late
Robert Huff won both legs of the FIA World Touring Car Championship yesterday, but still felt down in the dumps after Chevrolet teammate and rival Yvan Muller thrillingly pipped him to the world championship title by a mere three points.
'He gave me a hard time and deserved to win. But at the end of the day, I did just enough to win my third world championship title. It has been a great season for me,' said a champagne-soaked Muller.
Briton Huff began the day knowing he needed to pull off something spectacular to win his first world championship as he trailed Frenchman Muller by 28 points in the drivers' standings.
And the 31-year-old Cambridge-born driver did it by winning both of the nine-lap legs in an incident-filled race that included spectacular crashes by hometown heroes Andre Couto and Daryl O'Young.
But it still was not enough as Muller stuck like a limpet and finished the two races in second and third place to earn enough points to be crowned world champion for a third time.
'I did everything I could. I won pole position here and won the two races, but it wasn't enough. It is really disappointing. If someone had told me at the start of the season that I would win eight races, win four poles and still not win the world championship, I wouldn't have believed them,' said Huff (pictured).
The first leg of the race got off to a stunning start when Macau's Couto lost control of his vehicle to slide broadside into the barriers at Lisboa Corner. He then careered across the track taking out Alain Menu, who had been third in the world standings.
Huff and Muller, who had begun at the front of the grid, escaped the carnage behind them, but it resulted in the safety car coming out. It happened again a couple of laps later when O'Young lost control to end his race in the barriers. With the safety car on the track for half the race - during which drivers cannot overtake - the result of the first leg was academic, although Muller did make one outrageous bid to overtake Huff late in the race.
The second leg began with a different grid, based on qualifying times and not on how the first race had finished as in previous years. This saw Huff begin on row two and Muller further behind on row four.
Huff quickly grabbed the lead, overtaking Michel Nykjaer and pole sitter Franz Engstler, but Muller was equal to the task and stayed in touch.
'I knew I had to stay in the top five at least to win the world crown. And that was my aim,' said Muller, who pushed hard to finish in third to win his third title in five years.
'It has been a great season for me,' said Muller, who like Huff finished with eight wins, but had more second-place finishes, which proved decisive in the end.
Huff will at least take home the consolation that he finished as the best British driver in an FIA world championship series this season - even better than Formula One's Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
'Yes, I'm happy with my consistency this season. I finished every race in the points. But looking back, I also made a few mistakes and lost a couple of vital points which at the end of the day accounted for the three points I needed today to be world champion,' said a disappointed Huff.