Wed 15 July 2015
Formula 1 star Daniel Ricciardo will make his Race Of Champions debut in London on November 20-21, partnering motorbike legend Mick Doohan for Team Australia at the Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – the iconic home of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Ricciardo set the motor racing world alight last year with three victories – in Canada, Hungary and Belgium – following his move to the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team. The impressive performances took him to third place in the drivers’ world championship. In doing so he also saw off the challenge of his illustrious team-mate, four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel has now moved to Scuderia Ferrari but he has already signed up for the 2015 Race Of Champions too, so he and Ricciardo could even meet again on the London track. Ricciardo will also have the chance to race for the glory of his country as he partners motorbike legend Mick Doohan for Team Australia in the ROC Nations Cup.
Ricciardo said: “It’s an honour to be invited to the Race Of Champions and I’m really looking forward to racing inside the tight confines of London’s former Olympic Stadium. It will be very different to what I’m used to in Formula 1 but I can’t wait to try out ROC’s wide range of cars in quick succession. It looks like a serious challenge but I’m ready for anything.
“It’s also very special to be able to represent my country, especially as team-mate to someone like Mick Doohan. The word ‘legend’ is overused in sport but Mick is one of the few who genuinely deserve it. What he’s achieved is incredible and I’ve seen he’s a mean competitor on four wheels too. Now we need as many Europe-based Aussies as possible to come to London to cheer us on, then let’s see what we can do.”
Doohan dominated motorcycling in the Nineties, collecting a haul of over 50 wins and five straight 500cc MotoGP world championships for Honda from 1994 to 1998. This run was sandwiched by two serious crashes, the second of which broke his leg in several places and ended his competitive career.
The Australian can handle four wheels too: he once tested a Williams F1 car and he has proved his ability at six previous Race Of Champions appearances. In 2012 he won three races and reached the individual quarter-finals before he was defeated by F1 legend Michael Schumacher. He also partnered V8 Supercar ace Jamie Whincup to the ROC Nations Cup semi-finals. Now he will bid to keep proving that the world’s best bike racers can mix it with the world’s best car drivers in their own field.
Doohan said: “I’m delighted to be coming back to the Race Of Champions and it will be great fun to team up with Daniel for Team Australia in the ROC Nations Cup. This is always a really enjoyable event anyway, and it’s fantastic to catch up with so many of the world’s best drivers. Of course having spent my life on two wheels I know how hard they are to beat but I’ll give my all and try to give them a fright.
“I actually prefer the stadium-style Race Of Champions circuit like the one we’ll have in London. The longer track in Barbados last year required a lot more feel, and I’m a bit short of experience. But on a short track it’s about hurling the car round the turns quickly so you don’t need to be quite so refined! Either way we all know Daniel never stops smiling so I hope he can forgive this old biker an indiscretion or two…”
The Race Of Champions is an annual end-of-season contest which has been held for over 25 years. It brings together some of the world’s greatest drivers from motor sport’s major disciplines – including Formula 1, World Rally, Le Mans, MotoGP and the X-Games – and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery.
The event is run over two days: first comes the ROC Nations Cup (on the evening of Friday November 20) when drivers pair up in teams based on nationality to bid for the title of ‘World’s Fastest Nation’. Then on the afternoon of Saturday November 21 it’s time for the Race Of Champions itself, when teamwork goes out of the window and it’s a flat-out battle for individual glory.
Along with Ricciardo, Doohan and Vettel, drivers already confirmed for ROC 2015 include nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen, the reigning FIA World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg and the current ROC Champion of Champions David Coulthard.
ROC president Fredrik Johnsson said: “What a line-up we’ve put together for Team Australia this year. We are delighted to welcome Daniel to the Race Of Champions for the first time. He announced his arrival at the top of Formula 1 in some style last year and I’m sure plenty of race fans will be excited at the prospect of watching him take on the likes of Sebastian Vettel in identical machinery in November.
“As for Mick, he is a true legend of his sport and he has plenty of skill on four wheels too, as his performances at ROC have proved down the years. So we could not be happier to be bringing this pair of greats to the former Olympic Stadium in November. We know London has a huge Australian population and we hope many will come and cheer on their team. Australia have been battling England on their home soil for over a century in cricket but this is their big chance to do it on a racetrack too…”
In recent years ROC has visited the Stade de France in Paris (2004-2006), London’s Wembley Stadium (2007-2008), the ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic Stadium in Beijing (2009), Düsseldorf’s Esprit Arena (2010-2011), the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok (2012) and Bushy Park Barbados (2014). Now the contest is returning to its European roots at the iconic home of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The former Olympic Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was the backdrop to some of the most memorable action of London 2012, plus the opening and closing ceremonies. Now it is being transformed into a year-round multi-use venue that will deliver a lasting sporting, cultural and community legacy in east London. The works will be paused this autumn for a range of international sporting events – including its fastest ever race as ROC comes to town – before it closes for further refurbishment ahead of its full re-opening in 2016.
Tickets for ROC 2015 in London are now available via www.ticketmaster.co.uk/roc. For access to rights-free high-resolution imagery and to keep up with all the latest news ahead of this year’s event please visit www.raceofchampions.com, Race Of Champions on Facebook plus @raceofchampions and #ROCLondon on Twitter.
Drivers already announced for the 2015 Race Of Champions: