The 2010 installment of theRace of Champions proved to be a very closely fought affair that threw up a surprise winner in debutant Filipe Albuquerque. The 25-year-old Portuguese driver currently pilots an Audi RS4 in the Italian Superstars V8 series and qualified for the RoC 2010 by winning the South Europe contest held this past August.
Relatively unknown in comparison to the star-studded lineup, Albuquerque out drove the likes of seven-time F1 Champion Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost. The rookie found himself in the Grand Final up against veteran WRC Champion and three-time RoC winner, Sebastian Loeb, where he eclipsed the rally ace 2-1 in a tooth and nail head-to-head battle.
The parallel track at the ESPRIT Arena in Dusseldorf provided hot and heavy action over the weekends’ events including a quarterfinal that saw a “too cautious” Michael Schumacher losing out to younger compatriot and newly crowned F1 Champion Sebastian Vettel . F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen was involved in a bad crash, but luckily he and his girlfriend - a passenger at the time - are both fine.
Hit the jump for the top drivers’ comments & the Highlights video
Filipe Albuquerque: “Today was my day. Everything went so well and I made no mistakes. Since the beginning I was up against such good drivers - I had to beat Sebastian Vettel twice and in the final, wow, Sébastien was really on it. I just drove my race and when I won the first one I was really happy. In the second race I made a small mistake and straightaway he was there and won - a little mistake can cause you to lose everything in this competition. But in the deciding race I was nice and smooth with no mistakes. I can’t believe it - it’s the first time I am here and I have won - I could not ask for more. To win against great names, including Vettel in Germany when he has just won the world championship, is just fantastic.”
Sébastien Loeb: “It was a really good fight but Filipe was very strong. I drove some good races and got to the final after some interesting fights; I gave everything. This morning I wasn’t so confident after what happened yesterday in the ROC Nations Cup when I was beaten by Andy Priaulx but today went much better. I won all my races except for the one that mattered most, the final. But I am sure Filipe will be back again next year to defend his title and I’d like to be back so I hope we can fight again!”
Sebastian Vettel: “It would have been interesting to have the current Formula 1 and World Rally champions together in the final but it wasn’t meant to be. That’s how it goes, Filipe drove a good race. With races coming so fast and just one race for the quarter and semi-finals, sometimes it works for you and sometimes it doesn’t. In the quarter-final against Michael it worked but in the semi I pushed too hard into the first corner and lost too much time. The race against Michael was fun and it was very tight after one lap. What happened last year in the semi-final went through my head and I was thinking ‘not again’. That time I shunted the car but this year I managed to get it to the line first so it was nice to pay him back.”
Michael Schumacher: “The problem against Sebastian was that after the first lap I was ahead and I was probably too cautious. I was too careful and he got to the line first. But it’s been really nice to be here with all these talented guys. On the one hand it is a competitive event but also it is a bit more relaxed and we have the chance to catch up with people we otherwise don’t get to see, so I have enjoyed the weekend. I’m also happy Heikki and his girlfriend came out of his accident okay.”
Heikki Kovalainen: “I am fine luckily, no injuries, and also my girlfriend who was my passenger is fine. It was a major shunt and it started from the touch of the wall just before the finish line. I tried to use every inch of the circuit and I just kissed the wall. Then I was a passenger as I hit the wall at the first corner. It was a decent shunt.”
Alain Prost: “It was a slippery track surface on my second race after some fluid was dropped on the track and that made a big difference, particularly on the last corner and infield. But it was okay, just less grip, no big problem. I have enjoyed The Race of Champions more and more over the weekend and it’s a shame I didn’t go further - I would like to have another go! I am getting used to the cars; it is not easy but I really started to enjoy it.”
Andy Priaulx: “Sébastien Loeb is a tough guy to race against. You can never be too confident in this event because it’s instant knockout so one small mistake and you’re out. But I tried to just have fun and push hard. I’ve had a great time anyway. To race against Michael Schumacher yesterday was a great honour and then today to go against Mick Doohan, who is a great hero of mine, made it a great weekend anyway.”
Carl Edwards: “I did the best I could. Thanks to all the fans for coming out here; it has been a fun event and I have enjoyed it. I just needed to win something! The issue is I race on lots bigger tracks than this but I should still be able to pick it up. I got a good run in my second race but had a bit of trouble on the last lap and lost against Filipe Albuquerque. This event is a challenge because these drivers are very good and everyone is a champion. They are very competitive - everyone is smiling but they are still very competitive.”
Travis Pastrana: “In my first race the car stalled, I have no idea why, so I had no chance. I just choked on the last bend of my race against Tom Kristensen, my second race. I took it a bit too easy on the last lap and then pushed too hard on the last turn. Tom’s a great driver and I got knocked out but that’s the way it goes.”
Jason Plato: “I didn’t drive very well today if I’m honest. The party we had last night in the hotel was probably too good! It was great to race against Alain Prost, who was a hero to me when I was a kid, but he beat me and beat me well actually. Yes we all want to be competitive but it is a great event and it is a pleasure just to be here to compete against these fantastic names. It was an honour to be invited here and I’d love to be back again next year.”
Tom Kristensen: “Today was not too bad after yesterday didn’t go so well for Team Nordic in the ROC Nations Cup. The atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic and it’s never easy to race against Sébastien Loeb. We do our best when we are in the cars but we also have a lot of fun and I am pleased my Team Nordic team-mate Heikki is fine.”