Hulkenberg became the first current Formula 1 driver in over 20 years to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with his 2015 victory on his debut for Porsche alongside team-mates Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber. The win has earned Hulkenberg the wider recognition he earned long ago in motor racing circles with a collection of titles in Formula BMW, A1 Grand Prix, the F3 Euro Series and GP2 on his way up through the ranks.
Since his Formula 1 debut in 2010 the German has shown consistently fine racecraft, not least his outstanding pole position by a full second for Williams in Brazil. He now races for Sahara Force India, for whom he scored 15 points finishes last year. Ever since June's Le Mans win, Hulkenberg has been consistently in the points yet again.
Now Hulkenberg will make his Race Of Champions debut this November at London's former Olympic Stadium. He will also partner four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel for Team Germany in the ROC Nations Cup. Vettel is also a six-time winner of the event in partnership with F1 legend Michael Schumacher, who is recovering from his serious skiing accident. Hulkenberg knows that's a hard act for anyone to follow.
Hulkenberg said: “I've had a very good year so far and I'm very excited to be making my Race Of Champions debut. I've always wanted to take part but it never worked out so now I'm really happy to be a part of it and looking forward to it. I'm obviously stepping into big shoes to replace Michael Schumacher, which is a huge honor as well. I feel very happy and positive about that and it will be fun to team up with Seb and race and fight for Team Germany.
“The ROC track is very narrow and tight, a bit like racing on a street circuit. But it's still quick and dynamic and entertaining to watch. There's going to be quite a bit of car-hopping, adapting and adjusting from one machine to another. They're all quite different so I don't really know what to expect. But I guess I'll get dumped into the cold water and then I'll have to figure out how to swim…"
Hulkenberg's new team-mate Sebastian Vettel added: “It's obviously very sad that Michael can't join us again but in his absence it's great to have Nico as a partner on Team Germany this year. I have massive respect for what he did in the Le Mans 24 Hours — to win it on his first attempt is very impressive. That's a great race to watch because the race is long yet they race flat out from the first lap for the whole of the race. The Race Of Champions is at the other end of the scale in terms of distance but I can assure Nico we push just as hard!"
The Race Of Champions is an annual end-of-season contest which has been held for over 25 years. It brings together some of the world's greatest drivers from motor sport's major disciplines — including Formula 1, World Rally, Le Mans, MotoGP and the X-Games — and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery.
The event is run over two days: first comes the ROC Nations Cup (on the evening of Friday November 20) when drivers pair up in teams based on nationality to bid for the title of ‘World's Fastest Nation'. Then on the afternoon of Saturday November 21 it's time for the Race Of Champions itself, when teamwork goes out of the window and it's a flat-out battle for individual glory.
Along with Hulkenberg and Vettel, drivers already confirmed for ROC 2015 include fellow F1 star Daniel Ricciardo, nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen, reigning FIA World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg, current ROC Champion of Champions David Coulthard plus MotoGP greats Mick Doohan and Jorge Lorenzo.
ROC president Fredrik Johnsson said: “Nico's win on his Le Mans debut shows what an outstanding driver he is, but Formula 1 fans have known that for years. He has a winning record going back throughout his career and he consistently makes the most of whatever equipment he has. Now we are delighted to offer Nico a chance to show what he can really do in ROC's range of identical machinery.
“If Nico was from any other country he would have made his ROC debut long before now, but of course Team Germany has long been about Michael and Seb. Everyone at ROC is sad that Michael will be missing as he continues his recuperation from his skiing accident but Nico is a first-rate replacement. Now we hope to fill out London's former Olympic Stadium so as many race fans as possible can enjoy all the action as we find out if Nico and Seb can take their country back to the top."
In recent years ROC has visited the Stade de France in Paris (2004-2006), London's Wembley Stadium (2007-2008), the ‘Bird's Nest' Olympic Stadium in Beijing (2009), Dusseldorf's Esprit Arena (2010-2011), the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok (2012) and Bushy Park Barbados (2014). Now the contest is returning to its European roots at the iconic home of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The former Olympic Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was the backdrop to some of the most memorable action of London 2012, plus the opening and closing ceremonies. Now it is being transformed into a year-round multi-use venue that will deliver a lasting sporting, cultural and community legacy in east London. The works will be paused this autumn for a range of international sporting events — including its fastest ever race as ROC comes to town — before it closes for further refurbishment ahead of its full re-opening in 2016.
Tickets for ROC 2015 in London are now available via www.ticketmaster.co.uk/roc. For access to rights-free high-resolution imagery and to keep up with all the latest news ahead of this year's event please visit www.raceofchampions.com, Race Of Champions on Facebook plus @raceofchampions and #ROCLondon on Twitter.
Drivers already announced for the 2015 Race Of Champions:
- Sebastian VETTEL, four-time Formula 1 World Champion
- Tom KRISTENSEN, nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner
- Petter SOLBERG, World Rallycross Champion 2014, World Rally Champion 2003
- David COULTHARD, reigning ROC Champion of Champions
- Mick DOOHAN, five-time 500cc MotoGP World Champion
- Daniel RICCIARDO, three-time Formula 1 grand prix winner
- Jorge LORENZO, double MotoGP World Champion
- Nico HULKENBERG, F1 star and 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours winner