Rob Huff is confident the LADA Sport team can lead him back to a repeat of his FIA World Touring Car Championship title glory days.
The Red Lodge-based ace is preparing to return to the track for this season’s opener on Saturday in Argentina, having finished 10th in last year’s campaign.
But with a promising end to last season, including victories at Beijing and Macau, where he set a new lap record, as well as a complete new Lada Vesta to compete in, the 35-year-old, 2012 world champion, has heightened expectations for this year.
“I’m very excited for the first race in Argentina,” he said. “I had my first podium there last year and have great memories of the crowd, it is a great place to kick off the new season.
“We have a brand new car and, although that has restricted our testing, things are looking exciting for the team.
“I’m not expecting big things early on in the season but we have had a huge evolution and the car is certainly a lot better than last year.
“We ended the season strongly and that gave us a great platform for this year, we have to build on that.
“We came away with a victory at Beijing and an outright lap record at Macau, which was a real dream come true.
“This year has been set out as another development season but I can see no reason why we can’t win the championship in the near future.
“We have come on leaps and bounds and I’m full of confidence for the coming season.”
And it is not just Huff who may have renewed optimism for the coming season after conceding that the moderate success towards the end of 2014, was the evidence he needed to help persuade his team to switch their focus from relative nobodies on the grid to possible contenders.
“Lada had never really had any real success, and I knew when I came here that it was going to be a big challenge in my career to come and step in,” he added.
“I don’t think the team really expected anything last year but after some hard work and determination we had some slight success with a couple of wins.
“At the beginning of last season I think the team liked to do things a certain way but there is no doubt we are now going in a different direction.
“I think we opened the eyes of some of the team and knowing we can beat the big teams they have provided us with everything we need.
“The expectations are now higher and from being happy to make up the numbers on the grid, the team have been shown we can compete against the best.
“We have got people to pay attention now and I think we are more of a unit, we are certainly closer as a team.”