Mon 14 September 2009
Three-times FIA World Touring Car Champion, Andy Priaulx defeated F1 and Le Mans winner, Johnny Herbert by two heats to one in a best-of-three heat final of the ROC Legends exhibition event, staged in Porto tonight as part of the inaugural Euromilhoes ROC South Europe.
Andy Priaulx went into the final full of confidence, boosted by an unblemished record, having won all his three qualifying heats against Herbert, Carlos Sainz and Emanuele Pirro, and then his semi-final against five-times MotoGP World Champion, Mick Doohan.
Despite losing the first heat of the final in the KTM X-Bows, Priaulx managed to maintain the focus he had previously demonstrated on the night and win the next two heats in ROC Cars and finally the Solution F prototypes. He was quick to pay tribute to his fellow finalist: ‘I’m honoured to have raced against Johnny. While he was driving in Formula 1, he just made me dream about one day being a professional driver, and racing with him was a real honour. He is truly one of the British motorsport legends, one of my heroes and it was a big and very special moment for me. I’m very proud to win the first event of its kind here in Porto.’
‘I have experience of the Race Of Champions now having raced at Wembley Stadium for the past couple of years,’ he continued, ‘so I know some tricks. It’s a real advantage because a lot of the drivers are racing in these conditions for the first time here in Porto.’
Having narrowly qualified from the group stages, Herbert overcame the semi-final challenge of his former F1 adversary, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, previously unbeaten on the night, by three tenths of a second.
Herbert was disappointed to lose the final but thrilled it was Priaulx who beat him: ‘I’m happy to lose against Andy, a younger British driver…but I was unlucky during the last heat because it began to rain just for me in this part of the track (he said with a smile). No, to be honest, it is a nice win for Andy, he deserves it like he deserved his three FIA World Touring Car titles.’
All of the action, which included exhibitions headlined by the Red Bull X Fighters, was enjoyed by an enthusiastic crowd in FC Porto’s state-of-the-art Estádio do Dragão.
Earlier in the evening, Miguel Barbosa won the Euromilhoes ROC Portugal opener, and will tomorrow race with A1GP’s Filipe Albuquerque, Juan Pedro Fontes and team captain, Armindo Araujo in a ROC Iberia contest against a Spanish ensemble comprising team captain, double World Rally Champion, Carlos Sainz, current Citroen WRC star, Dani Sordo, 2008 British Formula 3 Champion, Jaime Alguersuari and rally star, Sergio Vallejo.
The fastest unseeded driver from both teams will then compete alongside captains Sainz and Araújo as Spain and Portugal race against Italy and Monaco in the event climax, The Race of Champions South Europe. Italy will be represented by double WRC Champion, Miki Biasion, who will be looking to improve upon his winless performance in tonight’s ROC Legends and WRC star, Gigi Galli, while the Monaco team will feature A1GP star, Clivio Piccione and Emanuele Pirro, a Monaco resident for over 22 years.
Tomorrow’s winning country will qualify for the ROC Nations Cup at The Race of Champions World Final in Beijing in November.