Formula 1 world champions Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button have been drawn together in the group stages for the Race Of Champions
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel will face Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen, F1’s Vitaly Petrov and GP2 champion Romain Grosjean
Team Germany begins its ROC Nations Cup defence against Team Slavic, Team All Stars and Team GB, runners-up for the last two years
The stage is set for a thrilling Race Of Champions following the draw for the opening group stages for this weekend’s event at Düsseldorf’s ESPRIT arena. The stadium will play host to the ROC Nations Cup on Saturday December 3 followed by the Race Of Champions itself on Sunday December 4.
A dazzling line-up of motor sport stars including current Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel and seven-time title winner Michael Schumacher featured in the draw made at the stadium by F1 grand prix winner Heinz-Harald Frentzen and DTM racer Timo Scheider (pictured alongside Patrik Meyer of German promoter TSP and ROC race organiser Fredrik Johnsson).
The drivers are split into groups of four for a round-robin first stage, with the stars of world motor sport going head to head for two-lap races on a parallel track for the right to participate in the knockout stages.
The draw has set up some exciting duels, with Schumacher lined up to battle with fellow F1 world champion Jenson Button – along with X-Games great Brian Deegan and rally ace Jan Kopecký. Vettel faces another tough group with Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen, fellow F1 driver Vitaly Petrov and GP2 champion Romain Grosjean.
Race Of Champions (Sunday December 4)
Filipe ALBUQUERQUE, DTM star and reigning ROC Champion of Champions
Andy PRIAULX, three-time World Touring Car Champion
David COULTHARD, winner of 13 Formula 1 grands prix
Travis PASTRANA, four-time Rally America winner and X-Games legend
Mattias EKSTROM, DTM star and triple ROC Champion of Champions
Martin TOMCZYK, 2011 DTM Champion
Jan KOPECKÝ, three-time Intercontinental Rally Challenge runner-up
Sébastien OGIER, winner of five WRC rallies in 2011
Michael SCHUMACHER, seven-time Formula 1 World Champion
Jenson BUTTON, 2009 Formula 1 World Champion
Brian DEEGAN, 13 X-games medals including Rally Cross gold in 2011
Juho HÄNNINEN, 2011 S-WRC champion and 2010 IRC champion
Sebastian VETTEL, 2010 and 2011 Formula 1 World Champion
Tom KRISTENSEN, eight-time Le Mans 24-Hour race winner
Vitaly PETROV, Formula 1 driver for Lotus Renault GP
Romain GROSJEAN, 2011 GP2 Series Champion
The action begins on Saturday evening with the ROC Nations Cup, when home heroes Schumacher and Vettel aim for an incredible fifth consecutive title together for Team Germany. The German pair will again go up against Button and triple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx as they have been drawn against Team GB, the runners-up for the past two years.
ROC Nations Cup (Saturday December 3)
Team France (Sébastien OGIER & Romain GROSJEAN)
Team Nordic (Tom KRISTENSEN & Juho HÄNNINEN)
Team USA (Travis PASTRANA & Brian DEEGAN)
SAT1 Team Germany 2 (Timo GLOCK & Timo SCHEIDER)
Team Germany (Michael SCHUMACHER & Sebastian VETTEL)
Team Slavic (Vitaly PETROV & Jan KOPECKÝ)
Team Great Britain (Jenson BUTTON & Andy PRIAULX)
Team All Stars (David COULTHARD & Filipe ALBUQUERQUE)
Speaking after the draw, Frentzen said: “Taking a look at the groups I have to say the crowds will definitely see several very interesting duels: F1 stars against rally aces, DTM drivers against sportscar stars. It couldn’t have worked out much better so the spectators can already look forward to a lot of thrilling race action.”
Frentzen will himself take part in a special ROC Legends Cup race on Sunday alongside fellow German F1 veteran Hans-Joachim Stuck plus former European rally champion Marc Duez and 1984 world rally champion Stig Blomqvist. Swedish legend Blomqvist is a replacement for F1’s Jos Verstappen, who was forced to pull out due to a late clash of commitments.
As well as a stellar driver line-up, the Race Of Champions features an impressive array of vehicles including the powerful Audi R8 LMS, VW Scirocco and Skoda Fabia Super 2000 rally car. They will run alongside ROC favourites such as the ROC car, KTM X-Bow, World Touring Racecar and the RX150 buggy.
There is a full programme of entertainment featuring the Red Bull FMX show, Chris Pfeiffer Streetbike Freestyle Rider and stunt driver Terry Grant’s world record attempt for driving on two wheels. Newly-signed Volkswagen World Rally Championship driver Sébastien Ogier will also do a demonstration run in the all-new VW Polo WRC car.
Tickets are still available from www.raceofchampions.com with prices starting at 19 Euros. Sign up for all the latest updates at www.raceofchampions.com, @raceofchampions on Twitter or Race Of Champions on Facebook.