Race of Champions
|Category||racing and rally|
|Drivers' champion||David Coulthard|
The Race of Champions is an international motorsport event held at the end of each year, featuring some of the world's best racing and rally drivers. It is the only competition in the world where stars from Formula One, World Rally Championship, IndyCar, NASCAR, sportscars and touring cars compete against each other, going head-to-head in identical cars.
The race was first organised in 1988 by former rally driver Michèle Mouton and Fredrik Johnsson, IMP (International Media Productions) President. Originally the event was a competition between the world's best rally drivers, but has since expanded to include top competitors from most of the world's premier motorsport disciplines, including motorcycle racing.
The top individual overall in The Race Of Champions is given the title "Champion of Champions", and receives the Henri Toivonen Memorial trophy. The ROC Nations' Cup was added in 1999 and now features teams of two drivers who compete for their country.
The event has taken place in several venues, including 12 years on Gran Canaria from 1992 to 2003. More recently, the event has been held in major sporting stadia, including the Stade de France in Paris, Wembley Stadium in London, the Beijing National Stadium, Düsseldorf's ESPRIT arena and the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok. In 2014, the event was held at the Bushy Park circuit in Barbados.
In the Race of Champions, the individual drivers compete head-to-head in one race around the track. The drivers are gradually eliminated using a round-robin format, with the best eight entering a knockout tournament. Prior to the Race of Champions, eight teams of two drivers compete in the ROC Nations' Cup using a similar format.
In both the ROC Nations' Cup and the Race of Champions, the final consists of three runs, with the team or driver that achieves two victories first crowned champion.
The cars used in The Race Of Champions vary from year to year. Prior to each run, a type of car is assigned to both of the drivers, with each machine being identical in every respect. Over the course of the event, each driver will get to drive several different cars.
In 2012, the cars selected for the Race Of Champions included a ROC Car buggy, the KTM X-Bow, the Audi R8 LMS, the Lamborghini Gallardo SuperTrofeo, the VW Scirocco R-Cup and the Euro Racecar (stock car).
Early years and Gran Canaria (1988–2003)
The first-ever Race of Champions was held in 1988 at the Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry near Paris, in memory of Henri Toivonen, who died while leading the 1986 Tour de Corse, and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the world championship for rally drivers.
The inaugural cast included all the eight world rally champions from 1979 to 1988; Björn Waldegård, Walter Röhrl, Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist, Timo Salonen, Juha Kankkunen and Miki Biasion. The final was a battle between two "Flying Finns", in which Kankkunen beat Salonen to become the first "Champion of Champions". The cars used at the first event were Audi Quattro S1, BMW M3, Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, Lancia Delta Integrale, Opel Manta 400 and Peugeot 205 Turbo 16.
The following years saw new events in addition to the main race. The International Rally Masters, started in 1990, was designed to offer the season's best drivers, who were yet to win a championship title, the chance to win a spot in the main Race of Champions. The Classic Rally Masters, first contested in 1994, was a "historic" Race of Champions competed with pre-1965 Porsche 911s. These two events have since been discontinued.
After one-off appearances at the Nürburgring, Barcelona and Madrid, the event found a permanent home for the next 12 years at the Ciudad Deportivas Islas Canarias venue on Gran Canaria starting from 1992. It was during this period that the emphasis on rally champions faded, as evidenced by victories for Andrea Aghini and François Delecour, both of whom had not won a WRC title. The Nations' Cup was introduced in 1999, bringing in circuit racing drivers and motorcyclists to the event for the first time, with 2001 marking the first time that non-rally drivers were eligible to compete for the main title.
2003 was the last time the event would be held on Gran Canaria, the event switching to stadium-based tracks from 2004. The change from gravel to tarmac circuits saw rally drivers lose their dominance, and by 2007 only a handful of rally drivers were present, with the majority made up of circuit racing drivers from F1, touring cars and sportscars.
The 2004 Race of Champions took place on December 6 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis. The individual event was won by Heikki Kovalainen, the first non-rally driver to win the crown, and the Nations' Cup by Jean Alesi and Sébastien Loeb representing France. There was also a special "World Champions Challenge" race held between 2004 Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher and 2004 World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb, which Schumacher won.
The 2005 event took place on December 3. The individual event was won by Sébastien Loeb after Tom Kristensen crashed out of the final, and the Nations' Cup event was won by Tom Kristensen and Mattias Ekström representing Scandinavia.
The 2006 event took place on December 16. The Nations' Cup was competed first and the event was won by Finland, with Heikki Kovalainen beating United States' Travis Pastrana on the final round. Kovalainen's team mate was the two-time World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm, whereas Pastrana drove all the rounds for the US team, after both Jimmie Johnson and his replacement, Scott Speed, had to withdraw from competing due to injuries.
The individual event and the Henri Toivonen Memorial Trophy was won by Mattias Ekström of Sweden. He beat Kovalainen by 0.0002 seconds in the semi-finals, and then defending champion, Sébastien Loeb of France, in the finals.
The 2007 Race of Champions took place on December 16 at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The Nations' Cup took place at the start of the afternoon and was won by Germany over Finland. The individual event followed and the Henri Toivonen Memorial Trophy was won by Mattias Ekström of Sweden, beating Michael Schumacher of Germany in the final.
The 2008 event took place on December 14. Germany retained their Nations' Cup title by beating the Scandinavian team in the final, while Sébastien Loeb overcame the recently retired F1 stalwart David Coulthard to win the individuals' event.
The 2009 Race of Champions took place in Beijing's National Stadium on November 3–4. For the first time, regional finals were held to help determine the competitors for the Nations' Cup, with Monaco earning the right to compete in the main event after beating teams from Italy, Spain and Portugal at an event held in Porto on June 6–7.
Germany beat Great Britain to win the Nations' Cup for the third successive time, with Mattias Ekström beating Michael Schumacher to claim the individual title in a re-run of the 2007 final.
The 2010 Race of Champions took place in Düsseldorf's Esprit Arena on November 27–28. Germany retained their Nations' Cup crown in front of their home crowd, once again beating Great Britain, while Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque was a surprise winner of the individual event after beating newly crowned F1 champion Sebastian Vettel in the semi-final and Sébastien Loeb in the final.
The 2011 event was due to take place in Frankfurt's Commerzbank-Arena on December 3–4, but after Eintracht Frankfurt's relegation to German football's Second Division, the stadium could no longer host the event on those dates. The Race of Champions was held in the Esprit Arena in Düsseldorf, just as in 2010.
Germany secured their fifth successive Nations' Cup title, beating the Nordic team in the final, while up-and-coming rally star Sébastien Ogier beat Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen in the final to clinch the individual crown.
The 2012 Race of Champions took place on December 14–16 at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. The individual Race Of Champions was won by Lotus F1 driver Romain Grosjean, who beat Tom Kristensen in the final. The Nations' Cup was won for the sixth consecutive time by Germany after overcoming France in the final.
The 2012 edition was the first to include a ROC Asia competition, with teams from host nation Thailand, India, China and Japan battling for two spots in the ROC Nations Cup and individual seats in the actual Race Of Champions.
The 2014 Race of Champions was held in Barbados at the Bushy Park circuit on December 13–14. The individual Race Of Champions was won by 13 times F1 race winner David Coulthard, who beat Mercedes F1 test driver and youngest ever DTM race winner Pascal Wehrlein in the final. The Nations' Cup was won by Team Nordic's Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg overcoming Team Great Britain's David Coulthard and Susie Wolff in the final.
The 2014 included a ROC Caribbean competition, with teams from host nation Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago battling for two spots in the ROC Nations Cup and individual seats in the actual Race Of Champions.
In 2015 Race of Champions is returning to London, at the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford. Spanning over two days on Friday 20 November and Saturday 21 November, the Friday night will see ROC Nations Cup contested in an evening of high octane fun, while the crowds will witness the new ROC champion crowned on Saturday.
Confirmed drivers include four times F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, nine times Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen and FIA World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg.
Champion of Champions
- "The concept". Race of Champions. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- "History overview". Race of Champions. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- "Germany to host 2010 Race of Champions". raceofchampions.com (Race of Champions). 2010-04-23. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- "Frankfurt to host 2011 Race of Champions". raceofchampions.com (Race of Champions). 2011-04-14. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
- "New location for 2011 Race of Champions". raceofchampions.com (Race of Champions). 20 June 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
- "The Race of Champions returns to Düsseldorf". raceofchampions.com (Race of Champions). 1 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
- Elizalde, Pablo (25 May 2012). "Race of Champions moves to Thailand for 2012". Autosport.com (Haymarket Publications). Retrieved 26 May 2012.
- "Bushy Park circuit in Barbados to host 2014 Race of Champions". Autosport.com (Haymarket Publications). 2 September 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
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