Sebastien Ogier wins ROC individual title
Sebastien Ogier delivered a thrilling performance to eclipse 15 fellow superstars of motorsport and win the Race Of Champions on a packed afternoon of competition at Düsseldorf’s ESPRIT arena.
|Winner Sebastien Ogier (L) and 2nd place Tom Kristensen (R)|
Ogier, who took five wins in this year’s World Rally Championship, overcame Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen in the best-of-three Grand Final on the ROC parallel track to earn the title of Champion of Champions at his very first attempt.
"I’m so happy," said Ogier. "It was a very nice weekend and it was already great to be in the final at my first time. There are a lot of cars to learn here and the track as well. But I didn’t do too badly and I pushed hard all the way. Tom is a really good driver but to win this race is amazing."
Following Team Germany’s win last night in the ROC Nations Cup, the Race Of Champions pitted 16 of the biggest names in motorsport against each other in head-to-head combat in a variety of different cars.
Kristensen reached the Grand Final with a stunning victory over seven-time F1 world champion Michael Schumacher by less than two hundredths of a second. Ogier prevailed over DTM champion Martin Tomczyk in the other semi-final.
“Sebastien is a very deserved winner," said Kristensen. "He had the edge on cold tires, especially in the ROC car. But beating both Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher was a really big achievement for me today, particularly in Germany. It’s almost better than Christmas!”
An epic quarter-final clash saw Schumacher face Vettel, his team-mate from last night’s ROC Nations Cup victory. In a reverse of the result from their meeting at this stage of the competition last year, reigning F1 world champion Vettel was knocked out by his fellow countryman.
In the other quarter-finals it was bad news for Britons as Andy Priaulx was beaten by Ogier, David Coulthard succumbed to Tomczyk and Jenson Button was defeated by last night’s ROC Nations Cup finalist Kristensen.
The action began with a bang in the round-robin group stage, which featured four groups of four drivers battling for the right to line up in the knockout stages.
There was an early shock in Group A as last year’s Champion of Champions Filipe Albuquerque went out without taking a single win – though he had a car failure to blame in the first heat. Instead it was Priaulx who dominated the standings with three wins out of three, ahead of Coulthard, who also progressed with two wins, and Travis Pastrana who was eliminated with his single win.
Group B held similar bad news for three-time ROC Champion of Champions Mattias Ekström, who was edged out of the running with just one win out of three – along with IRC rally ace Jan Kopecky. The Czech driver beat Ogier in the Skoda rally car but Ogier nonetheless progressed alongside Tomczyk with two wins each.
Schumacher and Button both progressed comfortably from Group C, with the German coming out on top in their third race of the weekend in the World Touring Racecar. Last night’s ROC Nations Cup finalist Juho Hanninen was knocked out with just one win this time around, over action sports star Brian Deegan.
Group D was always looking like the hardest quartet to call, and so it proved. Vitaly Petrov was eliminated but in the end Vettel, Kristensen and Romain Grosjean all took two wins apiece. It came down to a showdown on the best lap times in the Skoda rally car – and Grosjean missed out on the knockout stages by just half a second.
To kick off the day Formula 1 racer Heinz-Harald Frentzen did bring home some glory for Germany as he defeated race and rally veteran Marc Duez in the final of the ROC Legends Cup. Rally legend Stig Blomqvist and former racer Hans-Joachim Stuck were knocked out in the group stages.
Sébastien Ogier (Champion of Champions): “I’m so happy. It was a very nice weekend. Tom is a really good driver but to win this race at the first attempt is amazing. There are a lot of new cars to learn here plus the track as well. But I pushed hard all the way and I didn’t do too badly. I had a lot of fun out there though I want to congratulate Jan Kopecky for a nice race in the Skoda, which I’ll be driving next year. I was very proud to be invited to the Race Of Champions. It’s very nice to do it and to have the chance to meet all these great drivers. It’s a good party and a happy end to the year.”
Tom Kristensen (runner-up): “Sébastien is a very deserved winner. He had the edge on cold tires, especially in the ROC car. But it’s great fun to be out driving so many cars – that is an amazing experience, and especially to make it to the final on both days. To beat both Michael and Sebastian was a really big achievement for me today, particularly in Germany. It’s something very special but it’s difficult to celebrate when you're not exactly giving the crowds the result they want! I did all I could in the final and I love being part of this event. It’s almost better than Christmas!”
Michael Schumacher (semi-finalist): “Of course I’d like to have gone further, but the whole point of this event is the atmosphere and the fun we have. Congratulations to Tom Kristensen for knocking me out in the semi-finals. It was pretty tight but it’s not about the two hundredths that separated us or the fact that I beat Seb earlier in the evening. You always enjoy winning, absolutely, and if you win against a good driver that’s even better. But win or lose I’ve had a really enjoyable weekend here, as ever.”
Martin Tomczyk (semi-finalist): “Today went really well. After Friday when we had just one lap with every car I didn’t know what to expect. But it went well and to beat Mattias Ekström in the rally car is unbelievable. It’s nice to sit in the different cars too – and I especially enjoyed my first real run in a rally car. It’s just pure fun and the lap time isn’t bad either. There are some really good drivers here and I really appreciate being here to race against these different competitors from all over the world.”
Sebastian Vettel: “There was a great vibe here, not only last night but also today. We had a good party last night, but that wasn't the problem today against Michael. On the first lap I was a bit behind, then I tried to make up for it and I made a few small mistakes. It's a shame I got knocked out, but that's the way it goes. Coming back here was very special for us and having fun was the most important thing this weekend.”
Romain Grosjean: “It was a pity to go out by such a tight margin in the group stages, but those are the rules. I thought I was through but I was half a second down in the play-off over fastest times. But the Race Of Champions is special. The world’s very best drivers are here and it’s a great show to see these guys driving all the cars to the limit. The ROC car is good and I was pleasantly surprised by the World Touring Racecar. It was the first time that I’ve driven a rally car too, so I really enjoyed my run in that. But the main thing is having fun every time I get in the car and to put on a show for the crowds in the stadium.”
Vitaly Petrov: “It was a pity that I didn’t progress further today but I still had a good weekend. It was an interesting feeling to beat Michael Schumacher in yesterday’s ROC Nations Cup. Some of the other drivers have raced here a lot already so they know what to do. I was a bit more prepared in the KTM X-Bow than in the World Touring Racecar, which is hard to drive because it’s so huge. But most of the cars were good and it was enjoyable getting used to them.”
Jan Kopecky: “I had a really nice race against Sébastien Ogier in the Skoda. I fell asleep at the start and lost a bit on the first lap, but didn’t make any mistakes at all on the second lap and I beat him by a tenth. Otherwise it was difficult for me. In the other cars I didn’t have so much confidence because the practice was only two laps. I raced against Mattias Ekström in an Audi so I knew it would be hard to beat him unless he made a mistake. But I’m happy to have been here because all the other drivers are really amazing – and always happy to talk about whatever you want.”
Filipe Albuquerque: “I love this event but today couldn’t have gone worse, really. There were high expectations on me after I won here last year but in the first race the car just died on me. From there unfortunately I couldn’t make my way back in the other heats. It shows it’s not easy to win the Race Of Champions but it remains a great event and at least I proved I could do it last year.”
Jenson Button: “I missed last year’s Race Of Champions because I had other commitments but it’s really good to be back. I may not have won but this is always a very special event with a good atmosphere. You’re racing against guys from your own formula plus others from around the world like motorbikes and off-road racing. You wouldn’t normally get to meet up with those guys. So we enjoy both the driving and the evenings. The facilities are fantastic here as well: the circuit is great, in a great arena.”
David Coulthard: “This event is all about the camaraderie between the drivers. It’s just really nice to compete. It’s only a two-lap race but the fact that you have the ROC Nations Cup first means you don’t want to let your team-mate down. Then you have the individual race and all the social events outside the cars. This wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for Fredrik Johnsson. He’s got a great way of engaging with people and pulling everyone in. Jenson’s just finished an incredibly long F1 season along with Michael and Sebastian, yet they’re quite happy to be here. If this was a promotion and it felt like you were working, no chance!”