Tue 13 September 2016
Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen and reigning FIA World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg have become the latest driving greats to join the line-up for the first Race Of Champions on American soil – inside Miami’s Marlins Park on January 21-22, 2017.
Denmark’s Kristensen is acknowledged as the finest endurance racer in motor sport history. Known as ‘Mr Le Mans’, he has a record nine wins at the Le Mans 24 Hours and sealed the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2013. The Dane has a wealth of experience of competition in the United States too, having taken a record six wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring plus an American Le Mans Series title.
Since his retirement from WEC in 2014, Kristensen has continued to compete at the Race Of Champions, where he has been ever-present since 2001. He remains a big contender too, reaching the individual Grand Final in three of his last four attempts and narrowly losing out to four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel last year in London’s Olympic Stadium. In Miami Kristensen will add yet another mark in the history books, equalling Stig Blomqvist’s record of 15 ROC appearances.
Norway’s Solberg is another member of driving’s elite, having reached the top of the world in two different fields of motor sport. He won the FIA World Rally Championship in 2003 and amassed over 50 WRC podiums in his glittering career. Solberg moved to the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2014 and duly won it at his first attempt. He repeated the feat last year and holds a slender lead in the 2016 championship as he bids for a third straight crown.
Solberg’s first Race Of Champions appearance came at Wembley Stadium in 2007 when he partnered brother Henning to the semi-finals of the ROC Nations Cup. At ROC Barbados in 2014 he bettered that, partnering Kristensen to the title for Team Nordic. Last year in London Solberg added victory in the ROC Skills Challenge. Now this ultra-competitive Norwegian will be on the hunt for more silverware in Miami.
To manage that, Solberg will have to defeat a star-studded line-up featuring many of the biggest names in world motor sport. Alongside Kristensen and Vettel, confirmed racers include NASCAR champion Kurt Busch, Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and action sports legend Travis Pastrana. Many more big names will be announced in the run-up to January’s event.
Kristensen said: “I may have ‘officially’ retired from competitive racing, but I’ve been coming to the Race Of Champions for so long I still count it as the exception to the rule. ROC is a very special event and I am always very honoured to take part. I've been pretty competitive by winning the ROC Nations Cup twice and making it to the Grand Final four times. It is a lot of fun to race against the young guns – especially when you're lucky to give them a lesson.
“Even though my time at ROC has been partially successful, I’m still waiting to take home the individual trophy so maybe I can finally rectify that in Miami. The challenge is to race against top drivers from a wide range of motor sport series, but besides the racing it is a lovely event with lovely people. It’s always a great weekend and we also enjoy meeting up with race fans from all over the world. Most of all I hope we can give the crowds in Miami a show to remember.”
Solberg added: “We all know there is a fun side to the Race Of Champions but that’s not what brings us back. No matter what anyone tells you, we all come to race, push to the max and show everyone else who’s boss. The only problem is that everyone in the race is among the best in the world and every bit as crazy as I am…
“You don’t get much time to think, you jump in and out of different cars and you have to get on the pace straightaway. So it’s not easy, but whenever I do anything I always make sure I give it everything. Whatever happens that means we’ll be putting on one hell of a show for everyone in Miami’s Marlins Park. See you there…”
The Race Of Champions is an annual 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, NASCAR, IndyCar, Le Mans, MotoGP, World Rally and action sports – and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery. All the racing takes place in a stunning range of superfast cars.
The ROC event is run over two days: first comes the Race Of Champions itself (on Saturday, January 21) featuring a flat-out battle for individual glory. Then on Sunday, January 22 comes the ROC Nations Cup when drivers pair up in teams based on nationality to bid for the title of ‘World’s Fastest Nation’. In 2017, this will see America take on the rest of the world in a special contest in celebration of the host venue.
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), Bushy Park Barbados (2014) and London’s former Olympic Stadium (2015).
Now the event is heading to the United States for the first time to soak up the heat of Miami. Florida’s sports fans will have a chance to watch the speediest action Marlins Park has ever seen as many of the world’s greatest drivers push to the absolute limit on a specially-designed racing track winding its way around the infield and outfield.
But that’s not all. The Race Of Champions has non-stop action from start to finish – featuring stunt shows on four wheels and two wheels plus DJs, cheerleaders and plenty of other entertainment to keep race fans on the edge of their seats.
ROC president Fredrik Johnsson said: “We are delighted to welcome Tom and Petter back to the Race Of Champions. They are both exceptional drivers in their fields, with enough silverware to fill any trophy cabinet. Yet they are both still ultra-competitive so I’m sure they will be serious contenders for even more glory in Miami.
“This will be Tom’s 15th appearance at the Race Of Champions, equalling rally great Stig Blomqvist’s longstanding record. As for Petter, the way he throws cars around a track has to be seen to be believed. This is a unique chance for Miami’s race fans to watch their mastery in action in the intimacy of a stadium environment. Now we look forward to seeing a packed house of smiling faces in January.”
Tickets for ROC Miami are now available via www.raceofchampions.com. 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 #ROCMiami on Twitter.