Fri 12 December 2014
Many of the world’s greatest drivers have taken part in the first practice session at Bushy Park Barbados ahead of this weekend’s Race Of Champions.
The annual end-of-season event, which has been running for over 25 years, brings together some of the world’s best drivers from motor sport’s major disciplines and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery on a unique track with two parallel lanes linked by a crossover bridge. This year’s track at Bushy Park will be twice as long as recent years, leading to even more speed and adrenaline...
The ROC 2014 field features motor sport legends from series including Formula 1, Le Mans, MotoGP, IndyCar, NASCAR, V8 Supercars, WTCC and World Rallycross. The drivers have travelled to Barbados from all corners of the world including the USA, Europe, South America and Australia.
Ahead of this weekend’s events the drivers faced the media at Bushy Park Barbados. Here’s what they said:
Tom Kristensen (Team Nordic)
"I've been to the Race Of Champions many times over the years and I'm happy to be taking part again this year. I've now retired and my official last race was at the World Endurance Championship in Sao Paulo last month. But the Race Of Champions is not 'official' so I hope I can take part in more of these in the future. The challenge is that you have to drive all the different types of car. That’s unique, what I love about ROC. But this event is not just about winning, it's very much about socialising. It goes all over the world and we enjoy meeting the fans from different places. I'm always very honoured to be invited and the name of the game here is to get ROC to rock..."
Petter Solberg (Team Nordic)
"All these guys are as crazy as I am, that's for sure. Tom said we are here for fun but that's BS! We are here to fight, we give everything. The track here is very different to the ones in stadiums, but at the same time it's hard. There have even been some crashes already this morning – which is also fun, yes. But I'm looking forward to it, and the Barbados weather is not so bad compared to Norway now. This is a perfect place to have the Race Of Champions. It's great to be outside and Barbados really likes motor sport. Now it's up to us drivers to give the fans some good action so they are happy and smiling when they leave on Sunday."
David Coulthard (Team Scotland)
"The fun element of the Race Of Champions is the competitive side but above all it’s the chance for all of these great racers to go around the world and put on a show for the local fans. Being here in Barbados for the first time you can tell there is obviously lots of grassroots level racing. I hope this event adds to that and makes it more of an international destination. I’ve only ever done the stadium style of Race Of Champions but this is big and open so it will be a lot faster. The Volkswagen Polo RX is a pocket rocket too; it’s incredibly quick for the course and fun to drive. I had a little experiment using the handbrake but that didn’t work out so I’m avoiding trying to pretend I know how to use that. But then I’ve retired from racing now so if I can beat the guys who are still racing then they have to worry about what they’re doing..."
Susie Wolff (Team Scotland)
“The circuit’s great but my first impression after watching all these guys is that I’m really going to have to put my foot down. You don’t get much of a warm-up so you have to go for it. It’s a challenging track, but jumping in and out of the different cars is really, really good fun. It has been fantastic to be with the Williams F1 team as they turned round their worst ever season last year to third place in 2014. But the one thing I miss is the adrenaline from racing. That’s why it’s great for me to be here this weekend, to get the buzz of racing again.”
Mick Doohan (Team Australia)
“I actually prefer the shorter-style Race Of Champions circuit, which is a little easier for someone like myself. On the short track there’s not so much technique, it’s more about getting the car to go around the turn. Here there’s a lot more technique in the faster stuff, it requires a lot more of a feel for the car – in which I haven’t had a lot of experience. It’s a good thing you can’t really see the other car because it’ll be too far away! But it’s always a lot of fun to come here and compete anyway. To catch up with these guys and be part of it is just fantastic.”
Jamie Whincup (Team Australia)
“We’ve had another fantastic year Down Under but in some ways we’re stuck in our own little world down there so it’s good to get out and do some other driving. Now I have the opportunity to come over here, experience some other cars and meet some of the best drivers in the world. Mick talks himself down but he drives extremely well and he beat me last time in Bangkok by a long shot. That event was a bit of an eye-opener for me. The whole left-hand drive thing really throws me out as I’ve only ever driven a right-hand drive car. But I’m enjoying this track; the fact it’s a bit longer will help me. That turn one is pretty nuts – and pretty fast. So hopefully most of us will keep the car straight and there will be plenty of cars left for Sunday...”
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Team USA)
“It’s great to be in Barbados and I’m glad to be here at the Race Of Champions. Any time you have a shot to win the Indy 500 it’s a good year in your career, but the way the race finished was one of the best in history. Kurt was actually my team-mate all month. Now we’re looking forward to teaming up again. The Stadium Super Trucks are going to be a lot of fun too. That’s something nobody here really understands yet. My brother-in-law (Robby Gordon) builds them and runs them and I’ve never been in one before. So it’s going to be a lot of fun and that will probably be one of the best shows we have this weekend.”
Kurt Busch (Team USA)
“It’s great to be here alongside all these different champions from all over the world of motor sport. The Race Of Champions is an atmosphere of fun, competition and really a reason to celebrate 2014. It’s quite an honour to race and represent the USA – and it’s my first time carrying the red, white and blue flag outside the USA. Racing in the Indy 500 this year for the first time was a dream come true – and a new experience for me to be in an open cockpit. I was Ryan’s team-mate there too so that will help us have the right camaraderie here. On Saturday it will be great to team up together. Then on Sunday it’s every man for himself.”
José-Maria Lopez (Team Americas)
“It’s been an amazing season for me and my team so it was very good to be invited to the Race Of Champions. I’ve seen it on TV many times so being here right now is quite exciting. I will try to enjoy it but I’d be lying if I say that I’m just here to enjoy the race because when we put helmet on everyone tries their best to win. It will be quite interesting to drive different cars in a short time and get used to them. Everyone here is a great champion - some of us race Touring Cars, some F1, DTM, IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula 3, GP2 - so it will be interesting to get to race them and see what we can do.”
Romain Grosjean (Team France)
“It’s been a tough season for me so it’s good to come here; if everything goes well hopefully this will be my first podium of the year! The Race Of Champions is a lot of fun and there are a lot of things that make you come back. First it’s always good to drive different cars. We love racing, we are like boys and we just enjoy driving cars. Then there’s the fact that you meet different champions and people you don’t have the chance to meet during the year. Mick Doohan is always good fun, he and Jamie Whincup have travelled all the way from Australia, then Kurt and Ryan are here from the USA. It’s good to meet, have a good drink and enjoy...”
Esteban Ocon (Team France)
“This year I won the F3 Euro Championship in my rookie year. There were some ups and downs but in the end we managed to win the championship – which was the goal – so we can be really happy about what we’ve done. Now it’s great to be with Team France, and especially with Romain. I’ve known him for quite a long time now. And the Lotus connection is also quite a good thing: it’s like a family. Of course all these champions will be hard to beat so let’s see how it goes.”
Pascal Wehrlein (Team Young Stars)
“This year I had my first F1 test, first DTM win, and in Abu Dhabi I drove the world champion’s car. So it’s been a really good year for me. I’m looking forward to doing another show for the crowds with the F1 car here. There are many drivers here I’ve never met before, especially from the USA. So it’s really nice to have the chance to drive many cars, meet all the drivers from around the world and have some drinks and dinner together in the evening. It’s a really nice event and I’m really enjoying it.”
Jolyon Palmer (Team Young Stars)
“It has been a good year for British motor sport and it was incredible to be a part of it. For me it was one of those seasons where it all comes together from the first round. To win the GP2 championship in the end was a dream. It’s my first time here, I don’t know what to expect. But I’m not too daunted, I’ll just give it my best and see what happens. It’s a fun event and a real pleasure to be here alongside all these guys. Sadly I’m not part of a British team this weekend but instead I’m with Pascal on Team Young Stars. So hopefully we can show the old boys how it’s done.”
Rhett Watson (Team Barbados)
“Having the Race Of Champions here is huge for Barbados. When I was growing up watching these guys in stadiums and at Gran Canaria I always wished the Race Of Champions would come close to the Caribbean. And lo and behold it’s at home. This will do the world of good for Barbadian drivers. Hopefully we’ll get a lot of support. It’s unreal really, I never thought this opportunity would happen. I’m trying to take it all in, enjoy the cars, enjoy the experience and get some tips where I can.”
Dane Skeete (Team Barbados)
“The track is awesome. It’s a bit different to what I’m accustomed to, being a rally driver like Rhett. It’s very technical and fun to drive some of the nice machinery out there. I haven’t had a go in the rallycross car yet because Rhett keeps smashing them up... But I like the Audi R8 LMS, which is a lot easier to drive than expected because it’s forgiving and a lot of fun to drive. So I’m as ready as I can be and it will be great to see how I stack up against these guys who I watched when I was a kid.”
ROC 2014 begins with tomorrow’s ROC Nations Cup and ROC Caribbean, followed by the Race Of Champions itself on Sunday.
Coverage of Saturday’s ROC Nations Cup and Sunday’s Race Of Champions will be available on television all over the world. Stations showing ROC live include Motors TV throughout Europe, Fox in Latin America and Brazil, BEInSport (the Middle East), Sony Entertainment Network (India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), FOX Australia, Super Sport in Africa plus many more. Please check local listings for broadcast times.
Tickets for ROC 2014 are still available at www.bushyparkbarbados.com/roc-tickets. For access to high-resolution imagery please visit www.raceofchampions.com. You can sign up for all the latest updates at www.raceofchampions.com, Race Of Champions on Facebook or @raceofchampions and #ROCBarbados on Twitter.