For the first time in the events history a new concept will be launched
As usual some of the world’s best drivers will race head-to-head in identical cars on the exact same tarmac with winners will be decided by driver skill alone. But while at previous ROC events the drivers have raced side-by-side on a parallel track linked by a crossover bridge, the format will change this year. Now they will take part in an Olympic cycling-style pursuit race on an all-new track that is wider, faster and hopefully more spectacular than ever before.
Each driver will start from a point halfway around the track from their rival. To rev up the tension even further, the track has been designed so the two racers will start next to each other but facing in opposite directions. At the green light they will speed off in a bid to hunt each other down, with the ROC arch lighting up to show who’s in front at each split. It all builds up to the big finish – again approached from opposite ends – where there can only be one winner, often decided only by fractions of a second.
Unlike previous ROC layouts, the new track no longer needs to be divided in two with a barrier so it will be wider – leading to even more spectacular racing. The traditional knockout format will otherwise stay the same for both the ROC Nations Cup and the individual Race Of Champions, with tension building via quarter-finals and semi-finals all the way to the Grand Final when the last two drivers will battle for the ultimate title of ‘Champion of Champions’.
ROC president Fredrik Johnsson said: “We are always keen to innovate at the Race Of Champions and this new racing format is the latest example. In honour of our visit to London’s former Olympic Stadium we are launching a pursuit-style race. The tight finishes and tension this generates will be familiar to British sports fans from Olympic cycling – but motor sport takes this concept to even higher speeds.
“The new format will allow us to build a wider, more spectacular and versatile circuit than ever before. With identical cars the emphasis remains firmly on driver skill alone and the finishes will be as close as ever, with races often decided only by fractions of a second. The crowds at the former Olympic Stadium are in for a treat as some of the world’s greatest drivers hunt each other down all the way to the chequered flag.”
The event is run over two days: first comes the ROC Nations Cup (on the evening of Friday November 20) when drivers pair up in teams based on nationality to bid for the title of ‘World’s Fastest Nation’. Then on the afternoon of Saturday November 21 it’s time for the Race Of Champions itself, when teamwork goes out of the window and it’s a flat-out battle for individual glory.
MOBO award-winning singer-songwriter Ella Eyre carried out the draw on Tuesday at the iconic London venue, the home of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. And there are already a number of ties guaranteed to excite race fans.
With a total of 20 competitors, London is playing host to the biggest event in the history of the Race Of Champions. It features some of the world’s best drivers from series including Formula 1, Le Mans, IndyCar, Rallycross and Touring Cars.
Saturday’s Race of champions event will see Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button take on fellow F1 ace Felipe Massa in front of his home fans in London. Four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel and reigning FIA World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg have also been drawn together.
Another all-F1 battle sees Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg face off while there is an all-Scottish match-up between last year’s ROC Champion of Champions David Coulthard and Susie Wolff, who will be making her last ever racing appearance.
Friday evening’s ROC Nations Cup has also thrown up some fascinating ties. Team Germany’s Vettel and Hülkenberg have been drawn against Team Australia’s Mick Doohan and Ricciardo in the quarter-finals – and the first race will see former Red Bull Racing team-mates Vettel and Ricciardo going head-to-head in equal machinery for the first time in a year.
Then the atmosphere in London’s former Olympic Stadium will get even more heated as last year’s ROC Nations Cup finalists Team Scotland (Coulthard and Wolff) take on Team England 2’s Button and Alex Buncombe in front of their partisan supporters.
Race of Champions draw (Saturday afternoon, November 21)
José Maria López v Ryan Hunter-Reay (Match A)
Pascal Wehrlein v Andy Priaulx (Match B)
Mick Doohan v Jorge Lorenzo (Match C)
Alex Buncombe v Jolyon Palmer (Match D)
Sebastian Vettel v Petter Solberg
Daniel Ricciardo v Nico Hülkenberg
Jenson Button v Felipe Massa
David Coulthard v Susie Wolff
Tom Kristensen v Nelson Piquet Jr
Romain Grosjean v Jason Plato
Winner Match A (López/Hunter-Reay) v Winner Match B (Wehrlein/Priaulx)
Winner Match B (Doohan/Lorenzo) v Winner Match D (Buncombe/Palmer)
ROC Nations Cup draw (Friday evening, November 20)
Team ALL STARS v Team YOUNG STARS (Match A)
Romain Grosjean v Pascal Wehrlein
Jorge Lorenzo v Jolyon Palmer
Team ENGLAND 1 v Team BRAZIL (Match B)
Andy Priaulx v Nelson Piquet Jr
Jason Plato v Felipe Massa
Team NORDIC v Team AMERICAS (Match A)
Tom Kristensen v José Maria López
Petter Solberg v Ryan Hunter-Reay
Team AUSTRALIA v Team GERMANY
Daniel Ricciardo v Sebastian Vettel
Mick Doohan v Nico Hülkenberg
Team ENGLAND 2 v Team SCOTLAND
Alex Buncombe v Susie Wolff
Jenson Button v David Coulthard
Winner Match A v Winner Match B
Grosjean/Wehrlein v Priaulx/Piquet Jr
Lorenzo/Palmer v Plato/Massa
Matches in the ROC Nations Cup are best-of-three, with the two winning drivers racing in the third heat if required. After the quarter-finals it’s a straight knockout with further best-of-three matches leading to the semi-finals and the final.
Crowds at London’s former Olympic Stadium are in for a special treat this weekend after the Race of champions on Saturday as the assembled driving legends take to the track once more for a kart race, battling for supremacy around the iconic London venue. They will compete in two heats, with the top ten drivers progressing to the big final.
This will be the first time that the Race Of Champions has featured a kart race – and it has been made possible by the new style track being used for this year’s event, which no longer needs to be separated into two lanes.
Tickets are still available for the event which can be collected from the Box office, see Raceofchampions.com for more details.
The whole event will be shown live on Sky Sports F1. Full tv times are available from either the Race of champions (above) or Sky Sports website.
We will be reporting on the event during the weekend. By Marc Waller