Team Nordic's Kristensen and Kristoffersson win
On a sunny afternoon in the Mexican capital, legends from many of the world’s biggest motor sport series teamed up in pairs to battle for national and regional pride. They raced a mix of cars – including the VUHL 05 ROC Edition 2019, Ariel Atom Cup, Stadium Super Truck, RX Supercar Lite, Speed SXS UTV, KTM X-Bow and ROC Car – on a purpose-built pursuit track.
And what a festival of action it was – as ‘Mr. Le Mans’ Kristensen and reigning FIA World RallyX Champion Kristoffersson prevailed in the final against the might of Team Germany. In the first heat Kristensen beat off the challenge of four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel by two races to one. This year's FIA Formula 3 European Champion Mick Schumacher struck back in style for Team Germany by beating Kristoffersson 2-0 in the second heat. But Kristensen, competing in a record-equaling 15th Race Of Champions, was just too strong in the decider, taking the ROC Nations Cup trophy for Team Nordic.
“So we are both very proud to take Team Nordic to the win today. It was Johan who brought us into the final, because he was very strong early on. He started the day better and I finished the day better, and it worked out in the end. The Mexican crowd has a lot of passion and we loved being here. This was my 15th ROC appearance, equaling Stig Blomqvist’s record. I hope Stig is watching it somewhere and I hope he’s a bit proud of me even if I’m not a Swede!”
Kristoffersson added: “The Race Of Champions is a tough event – to work all the way through the group stages then go to the semi-finals and final. We had some crucial victories along the way and then Tom brought home the biggest trophy. It’s my first time in Mexico and I’m really happy to be here, and to be a part of the event against some of the best drivers in the world. I think it will be a long night but now we have one trophy, we can be a bit more relaxed about the individual event tomorrow. So let’s see what happens but first we have to get through tonight…”
Schumacher said: “This was a great experience, and it was special to share it with Sebastian. He’s done an awesome job and without him we wouldn’t have made it into the final. So we’re happy to have had a good run in the ROC Nations Cup. We did well – not quite enough to get the win, but second place is not too bad.
“It’s great for the Mexican fans to see so many different drivers and nationalities as well. There has been a lot to take in but I was happy to be here to fight against some legendary drivers all the way to the final. During one race against Helio Castroneves I also took my sister Gina as a passenger. I guess she brought me some luck because I won that one, so I was happy to win with her too. Now we can turn our focus to tomorrow’s individual Race Of Champions.”
Vettel added: “Mick and I can be proud of what we did today. It would have been great to go home with the trophy but it’s never easy to get all the way through the Race Of Champions, and we did well. There’s no shame in losing against Tom and Johan, who are world class drivers and they were just a bit too quick today. In the final I had a good feeling in the rallycross car, but Tom was a bit quicker.
“It’s fun to be here in Mexico, we’re all from the same motorsport family and we don’t get to spend much time together so this is a nice way to do it. As for tomorrow, anything can happen. With the format we have at the Race Of Champions, it’s so competitive you have to get everything right. It’s about adapting to the cars without mistakes and finding the flow. It will largely depend on our form tonight in the bar…
The home fans enjoyed cheering on Team Mexico’s F1 star Esteban Gutierrez and 2018 Indy Lights Champion Patricio O’Ward all the way to the semi-finals, before they were finally defeated by Team Nordic. Team Brazil (Helio Castroneves and Lucas di Grassi) also made it as far as the semi-final before they were beaten in straight heats by Team Germany.
Team Nordic’s Group C triumph with three wins also resulted in some of motorsport’s biggest names leaving the competition. Team Great Britain (David Coulthard and Andy Priaulx) ended up on two wins while Team USA’s pair of IndyCar champions Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden finished with a single victory.
After the ROC Nations Cup finished it was time to raise the national pride stakes even further with a special Mexico versus The World contest. This time the home drivers took on all the other drivers in a head-to-head shootout in both simracing and real cars.
Before today’s action the drivers took part in the ROC Skills Challenge, a special course set up near the Foro Sol track featuring chicanes, slaloms, 360° turns and parallel parking. There was an early triumph for Vettel, whose time of 42.72s edged Kristoffersson into second place by little over a tenth of a second.
There is plenty more action to come in Mexico City on Sunday as the drivers put their regional friendships aside and go it alone in the individual Race Of Champions. All the action runs from 1pm to 4pm local time (UTC -6).
You can watch the event LIVE all over the world on networks including Fox Sports (Latin America and Australia), Televisa and TDN (Mexico), CBS Sports Network, Motor Trend OnDemand and Univision (USA), ARD/ZDF (Germany), Sky Sports (UK and Ireland), MBC/KSA Sports (Middle East), Arena Sport (Eastern Europe), Viasat (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden), J-Sports (Japan), Jackie Chan DC Media (China), HK-Cable (Hong Kong), Astro (Malaysia), Automoto La Chaine (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Turkey), OTE (Greece), Cyta (Cyprus), A Bola (Portugal), Darmatex (Bulgaria) and Motorsport TV (Russia).
Territories without a live broadcaster will be able to watch the live stream on ROC's Facebook page.
Race Of Champions Draw (Sunday 20 January)
*Before the day’s action Mexican drivers Rubén García Jr, Pancho Name, Abraham Calder¢n, Martín Fuentes, Ricardo Triviño, Rubén Rovelo, Ricardo Sánchez and Ricardo Cordero will fight it out for a place in the ROC field.
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