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Rally aces Hanninen and Kopecky head to ROC 2011
Next month’s Race Of Champions will feature two of the most successful drivers from the Intercontinental Rally Challenge as Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky have signed up for the event at Düsseldorf’s ESPRIT arena on December 3-4.

Both Skoda works drivers, Hanninen and Kopecky have impressive records in recent years in the IRC. Hanninen won the championship last year before embarking on an ambitious schedule of rallies in 2011, combining his IRC campaign with a successful bid for glory in the Super 2000 class of the World Rally Championship.

That form has now earned Hanninen a drive in the Race Of Champions. The Finn will also partner Le Mans great Tom Kristensen for Team Nordic in the ROC Nations Cup as Sweden’s Mattias Ekstrom has a clash of commitments on Saturday. Ekstrom will still try to regain the ‘Champion of Champions’ crown in Sunday’s individual race.

Kopecky meanwhile has an incredible IRC record, finishing as the runner-up for the last three years – including a total of six podiums and two victories for Skoda in 2011. Hailing from the Czech Republic, he will now team up with Russian Formula 1 star Vitaly Petrov for Team Slavic, the first ever ROC partnership from Eastern Europe.

Hanninen said: “It’s an honor to be competing at the Race Of Champions. Finland has an impressive ROC record dating all the way back to Juha Kankkunen who won the first event in 1988. I’ve taken three wins in each of the S-WRC and the IRC this year, but I’m the only Finn in the ROC line-up so far – so no pressure then! Hopefully Tom and I have a blend of racing and rally experience that will work well as we try to take the ROC Nations Cup back to our part of the world.”

Kopecky added: “It’s been a strong 2011 for me and this chance to race against the world’s best drivers is the perfect way to cap off the year. I actually used to race touring cars before I switched to rallies so hopefully that can help me with the quick car changes. I’m looking forward to joining up with Vitaly for Team Slavic and I hope we can perform well in the ROC Nations Cup on behalf of Eastern Europe.”

The Race Of Champions is an annual end-of-season competition that brings together the world’s greatest drivers from all motor sport’s disciplines – including Formula 1, world rally, touring cars, Le Mans and the X-Games – and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery on a specially constructed parallel track. Drivers pair up for the ROC Nations Cup, this year scheduled for Saturday 3 December, before the individual Race Of Champions takes place on Sunday 4 December.

ROC race organizer Fredrik Johnsson said: “The Race Of Champions started as an event for rally drivers before we opened up to other racing series. So we are thrilled to be able to add two more rally experts to our line-up for Düsseldorf. Juho and Jan have both performed well in recent years and they’ll both be tough opponents for anyone who has to race them in December.”

Get the latest updates on the Race Of Champions on Twitter (@raceofchampions) and Facebook (Race Of Champions). For information about tickets (starting from €19) please visit the website www.raceofchampions.com.

Drivers confirmed for the 2011 Race Of Champions:

  1. Sebastian VETTEL, 2010 and 2011 Formula 1 World Champion
  2. Michael SCHUMACHER, seven-time Formula 1 World Champion
  3. Jenson BUTTON, 2009 Formula 1 World Champion
  4. Andy PRIAULX, three-time World Touring Car Champion
  5. Travis PASTRANA, four-time Rally America winner and X-Games legend
  6. Brian DEEGAN, 13 X-games medals including Rally Cross gold in 2011
  7. Tom KRISTENSEN, eight-time Le Mans 24-Hour race winner
  8. Mattias EKSTROM, DTM star and triple ROC Champion of Champions
  9. David COULTHARD, winner of 13 Formula 1 grands prix
  10. Sébastien OGIER, winner of five WRC rallies in 2011
  11. Romain GROSJEAN, 2011 GP2 Series Champion
  12. Martin TOMCZYK, 2011 DTM Champion
  13. Vitaly PETROV, Formula 1 driver for Lotus Renault GP
  14. Timo GLOCK, Formula 1 driver for Marussia Virgin Racing
  15. Timo SCHEIDER, 2008 and 2009 DTM Champion
  16. Jan KOPECKY, three-time Intercontinental Rally Challenge runner-up
  17. Juho HANNINEN, 2011 S-WRC champion and 2010 IRC champion
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