Practice gets under way ahead of Saturday’s ROC Nations Cup and Sunday’s Race Of Champions
A fifth consecutive ROC Nations Cup victory is “not the only target” for seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher
Last year’s surprise Champion of Champions Filipe Albuquerque declares the lesson from 2010 is to “Never underestimate anyone…”
The opening practice sessions for this weekend’s Race Of Champions at the ESPRIT arena in Düsseldorf took place today with the drivers enjoying their first experience of the unique parallel track.
The superstars of world motorsport are ready to do battle in this weekend’s Race Of Champions after today’s practice sessions. The drivers in action tried out a variety of cars, including the Audi R8 LMS, the Skoda Fabia S2000 rally car and the KTM X-Bow.
Midway through the practice sessions, the drivers held a press conference to give their thoughts on the weekend’s event. Here is what they had to say:
Michael Schumacher (Team Germany)
“It was a great experience last year, the atmosphere was wonderful. Naturally we are looking forward to doing it again. I’ve enjoyed reading the names on the ROC Nations Cup trophy and the target is to add another one. But that’s not the only aim. The problem is that Saturday is so hard – particularly the driving, of course – that by Sunday you are out of energy. Let’s see if it works out better this year.”
Andy Priaulx (Team Great Britain)
“I’ve been runner-up a few times now so I hope to go one better this time. Last year my team-mate Jason Plato was the best on the dance floor and Jenson’s had a great season in F1 so let’s see. But we can’t take anything for granted. It’s very close and all these guys are pretty sharp. Today I actually managed to crash on the way into the stadium when I took off my wing mirror…”
Travis Pastrana (Team USA)
“It’s been a rough year. We started out with Nitro Circus, I got to drive monster trucks and a lot of cool stuff. But when it came back to real racing, I broke myself again. So that’s a theme of my life. Hopefully I can turn myself around again here at the Race Of Champions. I actually broke my leg the one time I tried to do freestyle here. The doctors say I probably should not be driving this time either, but I definitely got the okay from all the people that matter…”
Brian Deegan (Team USA)
“I’m excited. It’s cool to come over here and compete with Travis on the same team. We’re usually up against each other so hopefully we can take it home for Team USA. I’m pumped. It’s an honour for me to be here. I’ve spent the last few years racing rally cars and off-road trucks and I love it, it’s fun. I’ve broken a lot of bones on dirt bikes so I feel much safer in a roll cage…”
Tom Kristensen (Team Nordic)
“When you come here, you can tell that very passionate people put on this event. They’ve set a new record this year in building up this track since Monday evening’s football match. We see people from all around motorsport, there’s a great camaraderie and at the same time we put on our helmets and race all these different cars, which is always a great challenge. That’s a nice way to have the final race before Christmas. My advice to my ROC Nations Cup team-mate Juho Hänninen would be just to go flat out and enjoy it.”
Juho Hänninen (Team Nordic)
“The Skoda was clearly the best car for me today – all the rest were hard and it was difficult to get the rhythm. At least with the Skoda I was not the slowest! I was just joking with Jan Kopecký about how difficult it will be this weekend. We’re not very familiar with these racing cars so it will at least be a lot of fun for the spectators…”
Romain Grosjean (Team France)
“When I got the call to compete here it was a yes straightaway from me. I’ve been watching the Race Of Champions for a long time and I’m very proud to be here alongside big names like Michael and the others. I hope we can achieve something big for Team France. We don’t have any Formula 1 drivers at the moment so I hope we can win the Race Of Champions instead!”
Sébastien Ogier (Team France)
“I’m very happy to be here with a lot of very good drivers and this weekend will be a lot of fun. It was good to try out my Skoda Fabia S2000 rally car for the first time during today’s practice sessions, but my goal is more to develop the VW Polo to be ready for the WRC in 2013. While we wait we’ll compete in the Skoda and that will be nice too.”
Vitaly Petrov (Team Slavic)
“I’m very excited to come here with so many experienced drivers. It will be fun and I hope to do a good performance tomorrow. I have done a lot of ice racing with a Lada front-wheel-drive car so let’s see if that helps. My Team Slavic partner in the ROC Nations Cup, Jan Kopecký, knows how to drive a four-wheel-drive car very well so tomorrow I hope to learn something from him and try to have a good result.”
Jan Kopecký (Team Slavic)
“I finished in second place for the third season in a row in the IRC rally so that was disappointing, but it’s a great opportunity to be here with some big names this weekend. So I’d like to thank the organisers for the invite and I will try to enjoy it. It seems quite difficult so far. When I’m driving the Skoda it’s easy but all the others are a bit of a fight. So I hope we will improve tomorrow.”
Timo Glock (SAT1 Team Germany 2)
“After my season in F1, the good thing is that I definitely won’t get lapped at this event! We’ve just had the first couple of practice sessions and it’s a tough challenge. You practise for two laps in each car and they’re soon over. So it’s a short time to learn the cars but we’ll see what we can do. It’s a good way to end the season and we’ll have a lot of fun. I tried to get some info about the event out of Seb and Michael and you can guess what they said: ‘What’s the Race Of Champions? Never been there before…’”
Timo Scheider (SAT1 Team Germany 2)
“It’s a great opportunity to be here. Timo and I have planned for a long time to be part of ROC. It took some weeks of discussions, then Fredrik invited us after many phone calls. Now we’ve had the first practice sessions we can see it will be a big challenge for all of us. We will try our very best and see how we do. It’s particularly nice that I will race against Pastrana. He is a hero for my son, who will be particularly interested in watching this battle…”
Mattias Ekström (individual ROC only)
“I’ve won this title before but not being here on Saturday this year won’t help because of the practice you miss. Everyone knows the Race Of Champions is a special and unique event. You have two minutes to show what you can do. If you do it flawlessly you go further. From today’s practice sessions I can tell the competition is harder than ever. The rally specialists are hard to beat in the rally cars while we have a small advantage in the racing cars. I once won a race by a thousandth of a second: with such small margins you also need luck.”
Martin Tomczyk (individual ROC only)
“It’s a great pleasure for me to be here. Of course I’ve had a great season in the DTM. When you work really hard for 10 years and finally in the 11th year you get the championship you really enjoy it. Now this is a nice way to round it off. It will be hard work for me as I have to learn all the cars and the track and then drive against all these high level drivers. But it will be cool.”
Filipe Albuquerque (Team All Stars)
“When I won the Race Of Champions last year it was fantastic. There were so many big names and to come here for the first time and beat them was just great. After this it was a really hard season in DTM but I’ve improved as a driver and learned a lot. So I hope I will keep up this momentum in the Race Of Champions and do well again this year. I think anyone can win it. The lesson learned from last year is to never underestimate anyone.”
ROC Race Organiser Fredrik Johnsson said: “It’s amazing to see so many fantastic drivers here from a variety of disciplines – from F1 to DTM to action sports. This year we have more new drivers than ever so it will be interesting to see how the new boys get on. Last year we saw Filipe Albuquerque come for the first time and beat the Formula 1 World Champion and the World Rally Champion to win the entire event so anything can happen…”
* The race is on to win the co-drive of a lifetime in the Lotus Renault GP three-seater Formula 1 car at Düsseldorf’s ESPRIT arena this weekend. The team’s drivers Vitaly Petrov and Romain Grosjean have both been lined up to compete in the Race Of Champions. And now four fortunate race fans will have the chance to get even closer to the noise and action, two each on Saturday and Sunday, in the back of a three-seater Formula 1 car. For a chance to win this unique prize – which is open to ROC ticket-holders only – text F1 to +44 778 620 8240.
Tickets are still available from www.raceofchampions.com with prices starting at 19 Euros. The last few remaining tickets will be available at Düsseldorf’s ESPRIT arena box office from 2pm on Saturday and 10am on Sunday.
Sign up for all the latest updates at www.raceofchampions.com, @raceofchampions on Twitter or Race Of Champions on Facebook.