Although the Race of Champions took place last December in London’s Webley Stadium, Discovery Channel’s HD Theater has just begun to run the special on television here in the U.S. The Race of Champions is organized by Group B legend Michelle Mouton and allows drivers from every discipline of motorsport to represent their home country in teams of two competing for the Nations Cup and by the end crowns one driver as the overall champion. Drivers compete side by side on special stages in machines ranging from off-road buggies to the open air KTM XBow to fully built Ford Focus WRC cars.
The event is as much about racing as it is entertaining the crowd. F1 Champion Lewis Hamilton made a few demonstration laps in his Mclaren machine and said a few words to his countrymen and the Scotsman David Coulthard showed off his Red Bull F1 machine. Taking a page out of BMW’s Z4 ad campaign, the two F1 drivers used their machines as paintbrushes to create automotive inspired pieces of artwork that were later auctioned off to support cerebral disorders. The action carried over onto two wheels when the Red Bull X fighters entertained the crowd with their high flying motocross antics.
Continued after the jump.
Representing Team America at the Race of Champions was NASCAR star Carl Edwards and Formula D Champion Tanner Foust. Unfortunately they were no match for the Germans, who thanks to modern day F1 legend Michael Schumacher and the youngest ever grand prix winner Sebastian Vettel. The two time ROC winner and WRC competitor Sebastian Loeb took home the individual title once again.
Sebastien Loeb has won The Race Of Champions at Wembley Stadium today.
Loeb, the five times World Rally (WRC) champion, kept his composure despite fierce pressure from fellow finalist, Britain’s David Coulthard, to become the champion of champions.
The unique, annual event pitches the world’s best motorsport stars head-to-head in equal machinery on a tight and twisty, temporary tarmac track constructed atop of Wembley’s famous pitch.
With a best-of-three format for the final, Frenchman Loeb took the honours in the first race to put the pressure on the newly retired F1 driver. Coulthard responded in spectacular fashion, giving the massive British crowd hope of a home victory by piloting to victory in the second heat, driving the KTM X-Bow.
With the stage set for a thrilling finale, the two driving greats turned the famous football stadium into a adrenalin-fuelled amphitheatre; slipping and sliding the purpose-built ROC Cars to a nail-biting finish with Loeb taking the honours by just 0.3 seconds.
Fresh from sealing his third ROC crown, Loeb said: “For sure, when you are on the start line, you want to win, but with this event there is not too much pressure. It’s a very tight track and you have to give everything you can. I didn’t get as much experience as some of the others, as I only did one ROC Nations Cup race, but it was a good weekend for me.”
Despite finishing runner-up, Scotland’s Coulthard was still smiling:
“The ROC is a totally unique event, and it’s always a pleasure to take part, even if you don’t win. I think there were some very exciting racing, and there’s nothing quite like being able to see the whole track.
“It was a very entertaining afternoon for the British race fans, and I did my best to keep KTM busy by crashing a couple of their cars.”
This year’s ROC attracted 46,312 spectators despite the chilly December evening.
Last year’s winner at Wembley’s inaugural staging of event, former DTM (German touring cars) champion, Mattias Ekstrom, was knocked out of the semi finals by Britain’s own Andy Priaulx.
Priaulx, the three-time World Touring car (WTCC) champion, was beaten by Loeb in the semi-finals, preventing the chance of an all-British final.
Other shock, early exits from the unique motorsport event came from the two-time ROC Nations Cup champions, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
Schumacher, the seven-time F1 champion, performed flawlessly in the earlier Nations Cup events to regain the title for Germany, but was knocked out of the first round of the driver’s event after a mistake.
Britain’s other hopes for success ended early, as F1 driver, Jenson Button, and British Touring car (BTCC) ace, Jason Plato were knocked out of the first round.
The Race of Champions this year included many exhibitions and demo runs, including Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren Mercedes F1 car and Andy Priaulx in his triple World Touring Car Championship-winning BMW.
Hamilton, the youngest ever F1 World Champion, was scheduled to face off against Beijing Olympic cycling hero Chris Hoy, on his racing bike, in a unique Man vs Machine challenge. However, the challenge was called off after concerns about the slippery surface of the track.