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Huff explains BTCC qualifying exclusion at Donington

Former World Touring Car champion Rob Huff has no complaints about being barred for taking part in qualifying for his British Touring Car Championship return at Donington Park.

Rob Huff, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Huff, whose WTCC crown came in 2012, has joined the Speedworks Motorsport-run Toyota Gazoo Racing GB operation for his first full-time BTCC season since his rookie tin-top campaign in 2004.

But Huff was blocked in the Donington pitlane by BTCC technical chief Sam Riches because his Corolla GR Sport had not been in the prescribed position outside its garage at the start of qualifying.

The incident appears to be down to a misinterpretation of the regulations arising from the new qualifying format, which divides the field into two groups for the initial stage – Huff was in the second group, but this is regarded as a continuation of a single qualifying session that begins when the first group gets under way.

“It’s obviously very frustrating,” Huff told Autosport. “But at the same time, it is what it is – it’s a rule, it’s a regulation, and it seems that we got it a bit wrong.

“The penalty is because the car was not in front of the garage for the first qualifying group, even though we weren’t in it.

“We had a little bit of dumper damage from second free practice [as Huff also did in the first] – I was just finding the limits and obviously hit it [the chicane tyre stack] too many times.

“I think our car was there, in front of the garage, three minutes after the first qualifying group started. It’s not a new rule, it’s just a new system [for qualifying].”

Ingram will start race one from pole position

Ingram will start race one from pole position

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Huff is philosophical about starting his BTCC return at the back of the grid.

“It’s the first day at school and lessons need to be learned and learned fast, and unfortunately we got a detention,” he said.

“It’s disheartening for the boys and myself because that’s not how you want it to kick off, but at least that’s three lots of bad luck we’ve had and things come in threes – we had an alternator go in shakedown on Thursday [at the Toyota test track near Derby], a driveshaft snapped in FP1, and now this.

“I’m a fighter, and we’ll do the best we can to get some decent points – I think the car’s strong enough.”

Huff wasn’t the only notable faller at the first hurdle in qualifying, with Dan Cammish – winner of two races at this equivalent event last year – consigned to 17th on the grid.

The NAPA-liveried Alliance Racing Ford Focus ST pitted too late for wet-weather tyres to get round to the chequered flag and begin a flying lap – team-mate Sam Osborne plus Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall driver Mikey Doble continued on slicks and made the cut.

“We were caught out by the weather and got the maths wrong,” said Cammish.

“I’m disappointed after how much work we’ve done, how fast we are, to not have anything to show for it.

“But race day is another day and at least we’ve got an opportunity to move forward.”

Adam Morgan was in the same session in his West Surrey Racing BMW, and pitted too late for slicks to get enough temperature into them for the rear-wheel-drive machine to progress – he lines up 16th.

Cammish’s team-mate Dan Rowbottom was caught on the wrong tyres in the dry second session and shares the seventh row with the Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai of Tom Chilton, for whom technical woes continued after failing to complete a single flying lap in free practice.

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