It’s April, and I can’t help but feel that the sun is out because I’m on my way to meet Rob Huff; British born – British bred – World Touring Car Champion of 2012.
Huff (34) started racing in 1992 when he was Pro Kart Champion for four years. Now he is determined that winning the World Touring Car Championships for the first time is only the beginning.
I meet him in the bar of London’s Soho Hotel to catch a glimpse of his five-star lifestyle and see what he’s about.
The room is romantically dimmed and people are swaying with tipsiness. Huff is looking on-trend in a dapper navy suit and I am unfortunately wearing jeans and sweater. We sit down on red velvet chairs with gold rims and order our first drink.
This is no Ocean or Vodka Revs. Oh no, this is Paris, Milan, or maybe even New York. So when our waiter finally comes to our table I refrain myself from ordering a round of Jager bombs.
What is a World Touring Car Champion?
Ok, a World Touring Car Champion, without wanting to blow my own trumpet, is the best racing car champion in the world. We drive Saloon cars, BMW’s, SEAT’s, AAA’s and Chevrolet Cruze’s.
If you weren’t a car racer what would you be?
That’s a very good question. It would have involved cars for sure because I’m just a bit mad when it comes to them. My first real job was a car cleaner. I used to clean cars for a living! So I very much started from the bottom and worked my way up. I went from washing wheels, washing cars, to racing in the driver’s seat. It was something I’d always wanted to do and when I know I want to do something, I usually get there, it’s all in the mind.
How did you first get into car racing?
Well I started with go karting. I used to love it. Then I was lucky enough to get a world scholarship at an academy in the UK and it was amazing because it had always been my dream.
What’s the best thing about car racing?
Ah, probably the adrenaline rush when you win, but you only get it when you win.
So do you like theme parks?
No, because theme parks don’t have a win at the end of them.
So you’re very competitive?
Yes, yes I am. And if you ask my wife that she’ll agree because it’s probably true. But that natural feeling of winning is something that is a) very difficult to explain and b) nothing else has ever come close to in my life.
How fast do you drive when you race?
It depends on what circuit you’re on, but about 175 mph.
I tend to feel nauseous at 60mph.
Probably best you don’t get in a car with me then.
Do you have to stop yourself from speeding in a normal car?
No, I think I’m quite a good road driver and because I get to go fast on the track, I don’t have that built up frustration to hurry up on the roads. For me, racing is on the weekends and I know to only drive fast on the track. But I think there’s a lot of things you can take from the Race Track to the road, a sense of awareness and surroundings.
Have you ever got a speeding ticket?
Out of all the cars I own, I got it on the slowest one.
Have you ever tried to impress a girl with your car?
Of course. The first time I ever remember impressing a girl with a car was when I did a 180 degrees handbrake turn in front of her in a car park. I was 17 years old, but it worked.
Is she your wife now?
No. But it was a pretty darn good handbrake turn.
How many times did it take you to pass your driving test?
Third time lucky with 3 minors. Just because I’m a racing driver it doesn’t make me knowledgeable of road safety and signs and theory. Were you first time lucky?
No. (I failed my first driving test with 11 minors and 3 majors and nearly killed a pedestrian).
Who’s the most famous person that follows you on Twitter?
Terri Dwyer and lots of Formula One drivers.
What are your fans called? The Huffers?
Um…no. They’re just my fans. I do all my own social media and try to be in contact with as many people as possible.
How important are your fans?
Without the fans we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. It’s all about the fans coming to the races and the fans buying the cars. It’s about buying and selling. The idea behind it is that I race in a certain type of car on a Sunday and on the Monday someone might come and buy one very similar to it.
Do you have a phobia?
Yeah, of drowning. Oh, and spiders! What were they even invented for? They are useless.
So where’s the best place car racing has taken you?
We went to an island just outside Hong Kong called Macau which is like Vegas but in China. But Australia is definitely my new favourite place.
How do Car Racers party?
Well the other week we hired out the penthouse of a hotel and there were playboy models and unlimited drinks. The motor racing world has After Parties which are out of this world. World class. And if you win a race, you host the After Party.
Which country hosts the best after parties?
Brazil, but the UK is up there!
At University we drink lots of Jager bombs. What do motor racers drink?
The British Racing Team has a drink specially made for it. It’s even served at the after parties.
What are the contents?
6 shots of vodka, lemonade and J20.
That’s awesome. So what’s next for you?
Well, I just got home from Slovakia where we came fourth and soon I’ll be racing a Porsche. Then I’m going to China to test another Race Car and then I’m coming home to start our American and Asian tour. We start with San Francisco and travel on to Argentina, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Australia. But the reason why I’ve come to London this week is to meet with people to discuss opening motorsport academies. This will make sure there are more opportunities for young people in the country. I was very lucky to have been funded, but it is quite rare nowadays, so I want to give something back to the sport and spot new, young talent.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start car racing?
I’d say if you want to be a car racer you first have to start Go Karting, then go to Race School to train hard. You need to be born to race and have the determination to never to give up. If it’s your dream you’ve gotta follow it. If it’s not in the mind, it won’t ever happen. End of cheesy quote!
On meeting Rob Huff, one thing really stood out. He dreamt big and worked until he got there. Not only this, but he radiates self- confidence, determination and positivity like no-one I’ve ever met. He knew where he wanted to go and he got there. He didn’t do it for the freebies, the fame or the fortune, but rather for the feeling of getting where you really want to be. As we stand up to leave the rest of the days drinking to the socialites of Soho, Huff tells me that he is off to race in Hungary for the weekend, and I tell him that I am off to revise American Foreign Policy in the 70’s.
Fancy giving Go Karting a go? Take a study break and go, go, go!