Kristensen, who has never won despite reaching the final four times including today, had no luck in the final once again. In the first race he was beaten in a straight race by Vettel but as they came out to do the second race of the Final in ROC Buggies, Kristensen’s car suffered an oil leak. There was then a long delay as the track was cleaned ready for a new attempt at the second race. This time they were in KTM XBows and Kristensen’s was damaged. Coulthard had brushed the wall in his race with the car but forgot to inform the officials and so it was sent out as damage free. Despite this Kristensen put up a good fight until the cars lack of handling caused him to go off, handing the Race of Champions to Sebastian Vettel.
After the event Vettel said: “Of course I’m very happy and honoured to win – but that took a while! A lot of world class racing drivers have won this trophy. I’ve tried to win this many times and failed many times but finally I’ve succeeded.
“What the Race Of Champions gives us is a lot of joy. When we were kids starting to race, we did it for pure joy and this sort of event is a good reminder of that. When you close the visor, ultimately victory is still what drives you. But I’ve tried to win this so many times, today was more like a surprise. We all know this format is very difficult because no one gets much time in the cars so you need to find your rhythm quickly. Today I had the feeling I found it straightaway. It was very cold but it was a great atmosphere so thank you very much to everyone for coming to watch.”
Kristensen added: “Seb is a deserved winner – he drove brilliantly and he showed that skill in the final. I gave my all and it was close but he’s been really on it here. Obviously I retired last year but it was great to come back and remind myself how it was to compete – and to stay on the track all the way to the final. ROC is all about fun and it was good to see so many people watching in the cold conditions. Apart from Seb, the main achievement today was by the people who have been here supporting this great event.”
There were twenty drivers in today’s event with Susie Wolff being the only female. Wolff, who was racing competitively for the final time was sent out the competition in the first round by her Nations Cup team mate David Coulthard. After completing her final race, Wolff stopped the Mercedes AMG SLS she was driving in the centre of the circuit and got out to wave to the crowd who gave her a big cheer.
Amazingly Vettel had never made the final before despite winning the nations cup six times with fellow German legend Michael Schumacher.
Vettel had beaten last year’s champion, David Coulthard in his semi-final after Coulthard jumped the start in the decided although even without the error, Coulthard was lagging behind the German.
Alex Buncombe, the Blancpain Endurance Series champion was the other home driver to make it to the semi-final only to see his winning run come to an end at the hands of Tom Kristensen who beat Buncombe 2-0.
The other home drivers Priaulx and Plato went out in the earlier round. They had reportedly been out celebrating their nations cup win the night before and it seemed it affected their driving. Priaulx was put out the competition by Kristensen with Plato losing to Buncombe.
In the quarter finals Vettel had beaten his Team Germany team mate Hulkenberg with Coulthard sending out Felipe Massa as he won his decided by four hundredths of a second, one of the closest margins of the day.
Other last 16 casualties included Rallycross ace Petter Solberg, who was beaten by Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, sent out by fellow F1 driver Hülkenberg, and the 2014/15 Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr, who was sent back to the drivers room by Kristensen.
Jenson Button’s hopes of a win to boost his difficult F1 season were dashed when Felipe Massa put him out. Jason Plato again showed how competitive BTCC drivers can be by putting out Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean. Priaulx kept up the BTCC driver success initially when he put out Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Bradley Philpot was a last minute home addition to the event. He replaced the injured Jorge Lorenzo after winning the ROC Factor event earlier in the weekend. He managed to win his first round putting out Motorcycling Legend Mick Doohan. His winning run came to an abrupt end in the next round though as he was dispatched by Alex Buncombe.
Newly crowned 2015 WTCC champion José Maria López was beaten by Ryan Hunter-Reay in his first round and DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein also went out in the first round, defeated by Priaulx in a DTM vs BTCC clash (Although Priaulx has of course raced in DTM and WTCC as well!)
Jolyon Palmer was the other driver not to progress past his first round when he was defeated by Alex Buncombe.
Before the day’s action got underway, the driver met in the centre of the stadium to unfurl a banner in conjunction with the Institute for advanced research into brain and spinal cord injuries (ICM) in honour of former ROC regular Michael Schumacher. As wel as this, ROC is also supporting the joint Gene Therapy research programme that Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in London and Necker Hospital in Paris are working on to find a cure for Children with HLH. As always with the Race of champions, it aims to help charities as well as entertaining with it’s events.
Petter Solberg, despite not going so well in the main event, did have a victory in another contest to celebrate. He won the inaugural ROC Skills challenge presented by TAG Heuer. The contest put the drivers to the test on a course that has a range of challenges such as Slaloms, 360 degree turns and parallel parking. Solberg used his Rallying and Rally cross experience to his advantage as he won it with the fastest time. He was followed by Buncombe, Philpot (The ROC factor winner once again showing his speed.), Vettel and Massa.
As if all this success wasn’t enough, Terry Grant used the event to set a new world record for the most people travelling in a car on two wheels! 16 people were packed into the Range Rover Sport SVR he was driving as he took them on a rather scary ride around the track, easily smashing the minimum distance of twenty metres to add to his many World records! (By Marc Waller)