Photo: 333 Racing

Rob Huff battles to opening victory in Shanghai

Rob Huff celebrated his first outing of the season in the China Touring Car Championship with victory in the opening race of the weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The WTCR regular had missed the season opener in Guandong, with the Shanghai meeting being the first of four outings planned by the Briton as part of the SAIC Volkswagen 333 Racing line-up.

Having topped the times in qualifying ahead of team-mates Rodolfo Avila and Zhang Zhen Dong, Huff was left with work to do in the opening race thanks to the random reverse grid draw that left him starting from P9.

A storming start when the lights went out however saw Huff quickly rocket up the order to end the opening lap inside the podium positions and he soon despatched the BAIC Senova of Darryl O’Young to move into second spot.

Closing down on leader Juan Carlos Zhu, Huff was able to jump into the lead when his rival made an error at the hairpin on lap five and then eased away at the front to secure VW’s first win of the year by 1.5s.

“I have to say thanks to the team and Volkswagen for giving me an amazing car,” Huff said. “I think the others were sleeping a bit at the start and I was able to make up three or four places and then I just picked the others off.

“I didn’t expect to win when I got up to second place but when he [Zhu] went a bit wide at the hairpin it gave me a chance.”

Juan Carlos Zhu followed behind in second spot ahead of brother David, who managed to get ahead of O’Young in the closing stages as the three Senova D50s chased Huff home.

In what would be a long train of cars fighting for the final podium place, 2016 champion Zhang Zhen Dong would take fifth spot in his VW ahead of Changan Ford FRD driver Rainey He, with Rodolfo Avila and Martin Cao in the first of the Kias rounding out the top eight.

Cai Yue – who shared the wins in Guandong with He – had climbed as high as fifth spot before being shuffled back to ninth at the flag, with the top ten rounded out by Jason Zhang.

Multiple Macau Touring Car Cup winner Paul Poon was 15th of the 16 finishers on his series debut with the only retirement being the Toyota Corolla of Liu Yang.