Beijing to be bigger an better This year’s Race of Champions will be the biggest ever, after organizers confirmed that it will feature an extra third day of action on a track that will be the longest and fastest ever to be built in a stadium.
The event format will also be changed, with the traditional ‘winner-takes- all’ system being altered and group qualifying stages being introduced. With 50% more space in the Bird’s Nest stadium than last year’s Wembley Stadium venue, the parallel circuit built in China will be almost 20% longer, while wider lanes will enable competitors to take corners quicker. Track designer and former WRC rally winner Michele Mouton says the new layout, which will be built by laying more than 4,000 tons of gravel and asphalt over protective bamboo boards, presents a completely different challenge to previous ROC circuits. “There’s a big difference between this track and the others,” she commented.
“It's wider, 7 meters instead of 6.5m, and the longest straight is one and a half times as long as in Wembley. “Half a meter in width is quite important – the corners are more open and it's fast all the way - the fastest track we've built so far, for sure. The long straight is so long you can go through all the gears and the drivers will hit 140/150kph at the end. “It's more a racing circuit now than a rally circuit - the one in Wembley and Stade de France was better for rally drivers; this should be more for racing drivers.”
The 2009 track will be 20% longer than the 2008 track built inside Wembley Stadium. The format of the event has also been tweaked to maximize the entertainment value for fans, who will see more action from every driver. As before, drivers will compete in head-to-head heats in identical cars. Each heat is held over two full laps of the parallel track. This year, however, a group system will be used for the first stage of both The ROC Nations Cup and The Race of Champions. Four groups will produce eight drivers who progress to the quarter finals of The Race of Champions, at which point the system returns to its traditional head-to-head, ‘winner-takes-all’ format.
The ROC Nations Cup group stages will produce four teams which progress to the semi-finals, which will, in turn, be settled by ‘best of three’ battles. In addition to The ROC Nations Cup on Tuesday 3rd November and The Race of Champions on Wednesday 4th, a regional qualifying round for Chinese drivers will take place on Monday 2nd, following a similar format to the ROC South Europe event that took place in Portugal in June. Fredrik Johnsson, President of event organizers IMP, explained the reasoning behind the updates for 2009.
“With a bigger stadium and more track time in Beijing than at Wembley or the Stade de France, we’ve been able to expand both The ROC Nations Cup and The Race of Champions, giving the drivers more races and the spectators more entertainment than ever before on what should be a fantastic circuit. And for the local fans, ROC China and a Challenge with some international Legends on Monday will act as the perfect warm-up to the main events on Tuesday and Wednesday.”