Sat 31 October 2009
Two-time World Rally Champion Marcus Gronholm will return to competition next week when The Race of Champions takes place in the Bird’s Nest Stadium, Beijing – the first time the event has taken place outside Europe in its 22-year-history.
The Finnish star, who won rallying’s premier crown in 2000 and 2002, will compete in The Race of Champions – an event he won in 2002 – on Wednesday 4 November, a day after he and Mikko Hirvonen team up to race for Finland in The ROC Nations Cup. Finland has twice won The ROC Nations Cup, the last time being in 2006, when Gronholm was paired with F1 star Heikki Kovalainen.
“The Race of Champions is great fun, and I missed competing in it last year,” said Gronholm. “Everyone has a laugh, but you always want to win, and because you’re in the same cars you don’t have the excuses if you don’t. It’s exciting, and I think racing in China will be fantastic.”
Gronholm was also full of praise for Hirvonen, who narrowly missed on the World Rally title at the weekend after a dramatic battle with three-time Race of Champions winner Sébastien Loeb.
“Well done to Mikko for his performance this year. He’s very quick and he doesn’t make many mistakes, which makes him a tough driver to beat. I know he won’t take long to get used to the event format in Beijing and when he does, Finland will have a very strong team.”
The final slot in this year’s line-up has been filled by Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit, who won the 2009 FIA Cross Country Cup and will join Yvan Muller in France's ROC Nations Cup team.
The ROC Nations Cup will feature a group stage this year, with 10 teams battling in three groups to decide who progresses to the semi-finals. With the draw having been made by officials from the Olympic Stadium, Beijing Sport Bureau and Chinese Auto Federation, Finland will race in Group A, against the German team of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, the Australian team of Mick Doohan and Jamie Whincup, and the Chinese team whose drivers will be decided in ROC China on Monday 2 November.
Group B will feature Jenson Button and Andy Priaulx's Team Autosport Great Britain, David Coulthard and Giniel de Villiers' Team All Stars, and the Monagasque team of Emanuele Pirro and Clivio Piccione.
The final group will be made up of Tom Kristensen and Mattias Ekstrom for Team Scandinavia, Travis Pastrana and Tanner Foust for Team USA, plus Yvan Muller and Guerlain Chicherit for Team France. Each team will race all the others in their group and the two nations with the lowest number of wins will be eliminated, leaving four teams to progress to the semi-finals.
Fredrik Johnsson, President of Event Organisers IMP, is pleased to have put together one of the most diverse Race of Champions fields ever.
“This year’s line-up is one of our most varied ever, as we aim to make The Race of Champions a real battle of champions from many different types of competition disciplines. With champions from Formula 1, rallying, touring cars, sports cars, off-road rallying, MotoGP and drifting, plus a new group stage format which means more action than ever before, it will be a great show not only for the fans in China, but also for ROC fans around the world.”
Michael Schumacher 7-time F1 World Champion
Sebastian Vettel Youngest ever Grand Prix Winner
Marcus Gronholm 2-time World Rally Champion and Winner of The Race of Champions 2002
Mikko Hirvonen 2009 World Rally Championship runner-up
Mick Doohan 5-time MotoGP World Champion
Jamie Whincup 2008 V8 Supercars Champion
TBD Will be decided in ROC China
TBD Will be decided in ROC China
Jenson Button 2009 F1 World Champion
Andy Priaulx 3-time World Touring Car Champion
David Coulthard 13-time F1 Grand Prix Winner
Giniel de Villers 2009 Daker rally Winner
Emanuele Pirro 5-time Le Mans 24 Hours Winner
Clivio Piccione A1GP Race Winner
Tom Kristensen 8-time Le Mans 24 Hours Winner
Mattias Ekstrom 2-time DTM Champion and 2-time Winner of The Race of Champions
Yvan Muller 2008 World Touring Car Champion
Guerlain Chicherit 2009 FIA Cross Country Cup Winner
Travis Pastrana 10-time X Games Gold Medallist
Tanner Foust 2-time US Formula Drift Champion