Fri 18 January 2019
Driving greats from all over the world have arrived in Mexico City ahead of this weekend’s Race Of Champions – and today they put in their first practice laps of the brand new ROC pursuit track at Mexico City’s Foro Sol, the iconic stadium section forming part of Mexico City’s Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez Formula 1 circuit.
The annual Race Of Champions brings together some of the world’s greatest drivers from motor sport’s major disciplines – including Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR, Rally X and Le Mans – and sets them free to battle head-to-head.
As ever all the competitors will race in identical supercars on the exact same tarmac, so winners will be decided by driver skill alone. This year’s selection of mighty machinery includes the VUHL 05 ROC Edition 2019 (pictured below in the hands of Mick Schumacher), Ariel Atom Cup, Stadium Super Truck, RX Supercar Lite, Speed SXS UTV, KTM X-Bow and ROC Car.
The competitive action starts with tomorrow’s ROC Nations Cup, when the drivers pair up in teams according to nationality (1pm to 4pm local time in Mexico – UTC -6). Then comes Sunday’s individual Race Of Champions (also 1pm to 4pm) when it’s a straight battle to come away with the coveted title of ROC Champion of Champions.
The eROC World Final will also take place tomorrow at 10.15am local time, featuring four of the world’s finest simracers – following a six-week contest open to anyone on Earth. The event will take place both in the virtual world of Assetto Corsa and in real-life ROC machinery on the Foro Sol track itself after ROC Academy training by stunt legend Terry Grant. The unique prize is a place on Team Sim Racing All Stars in the ROC Nations Cup alongside Italy’s reigning eROC Champion Enzo Bonito.
As they tried out the all-new ROC track for the first time, the drivers faced the media at the Foro Sol. Here’s a selection of what they’ve said so far:
Lucas DI GRASSI, 2016-2017 Formula E Champion (Team Brazil)
“This is my first time at the Race Of Champions so thanks to Fredrik Johnsson for the invitation. I’ve always watched it, I’ve always wanted to take part, and now I’m here. The level of the drivers who are here this weekend is great. It’s amazing to be back in Mexico; I love this place and this venue is one of the best in the world. The Mexican people are huge motorsport fans so this event has everything to be huge. The track itself is difficult because there are so many types of tarmac: the F1 track, the Formula E part, the TV compound and the concrete. So the car behaves differently at every corner, and because we have to drive so many different cars we have to remember how each of them performs in each section. So we’ll just have to do our best.”
Helio CASTRONEVES, triple Indy 500 winner (Team Brazil)
“This is an incredible stadium. I’d only seen it on TV before when Formula 1 came here, and now we have the chance to race here too. Hopefully the grandstands will be full and we can go out there and have fun. It’s always an honour to be back racing against so many great talents. Everyone is so close and if we start pushing the limit too much there’s more to lose than to gain. I reached the ROC Nations Cup final last year so now it will be interesting to see how Lucas and I get on racing for Brazil.”
Pierre GASLY, Formula 1 driver for Red Bull Racing (Team France)
“I’ve been watching the Race Of Champions since I was a kid so it’s a great pleasure to be here this weekend. I’m a racer and I just like to race whatever kind of car I can get my hands on. So when I saw I had the opportunity to race for Team France, of course I wanted to do it. I had to do a bit of negotiating with my team bosses but in the end they let me race. This is a really cool event with an amazing atmosphere, and it’s great to have the chance to race in a more relaxed atmosphere than usual and catch up with all the different drivers from different series around the world.”
Loïc DUVAL, 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours winner (Team France)
“This is my first time here, so both of us on Team France are rookies and hopefully we can have some beginners’ luck. We’ve already had a good time trying all the cars and getting a feel for the event. It’s about trying to squeeze out all the performance you can, so it’s a great challenge but also a lot of fun. But when we’re on the starting line we just want to beat the other guys. That’s what it’s all about.”
David COULTHARD, 13-time Formula 1 grand prix winner (Team GB)
“People might think I feel under pressure coming back as the reigning Champion of Champions, but the reality is rather different. I should remind everyone I retired ten years ago, with good reason. Of course I want to do the best I can, but I haven’t done any serious pushing since Riyadh and when I was trying my suit on in Monaco before I left I was worried if it would still fit. Now I’m out of breath already… So I’m always pleasantly surprised when Fredrik Johnsson invites me back. If experience counts, maybe it can help Andy Priaulx and I in the ROC Nations Cup. As for the individual Race Of Champions, it’s about the draw you get and whether you screw up or not.”
Andy PRIAULX, triple World Touring Car Champion (Team GB)
“The secret to the Race Of Champions is about 100 percent aggression combined with 100 percent restraint. You have to do everything to avoid making a mistake. I’m lucky to have won the ROC Nations Cup in London in 2015. But it’s interesting that DC and I have a combined age of 91. To be honest I normally try and keep as far away as possible from DC at these events because he generally takes a few tenths of a second off me in the bar in the evening. We’ve both got grey hair too. But while there may be snow on top, there’s still plenty of fire down below. Hopefully DC and I can keep the ‘Grandad’ challenge going…”
Mick SCHUMACHER, 2018 FIA Formula 3 European Champion (Team Germany)
“It’s great to be here racing alongside Sebastian Vettel. He’s already been giving me advice, so I think we have a great team. We are pretty competitive too so obviously our plan is to go as far as we can in the ROC Nations Cup. I’ve been getting ready for this ever since the end of the Formula 3 season, so I know it will be lots of fun and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Benito GUERRA, 2012 Production World Rally Champion (Team Infinitum Mexico)
“I’m very happy to be here at the Race Of Champions, and especially happy that it is taking place in Mexico. I was the first Mexican to compete in the event when I raced in Bangkok in 2012, so I’m now really happy to be able to share the experience with all the Mexican drivers here – not least my Team Infinitum Mexico ROC Nations Cup team-mate Memo Rojas. The secret to doing well will be about adapting to whatever conditions we have to face: each car and all the different kinds of tarmac. But it will be a great event.”
Memo ROJAS, 2017 European Le Mans Series Champion (Team Infinitum Mexico)
“First of all I’m so happy that this edition of the Race Of Champions is happening in Mexico. This track is one of very few in the world that has had races in so many different categories: Formula 1, IndyCar, Formula E… and now we have ROC. So the Mexican fans have to be grateful that we have the best of the best in motorsport in our country this weekend. It’s a unique event too. I made my ROC debut at last year’s event in Riyadh and I learned it’s not about who is quickest, but who can adapt to all the different cars the quickest.”
Esteban GUTIERREZ, Formula 1 driver for Sauber and Haas (Team Mexico)
“I’m very excited and very grateful to be having the Race Of Champions in Mexico, and I’m very proud to be representing Team Mexico in the ROC Nations Cup. This is my first time and it’s a great opportunity to enjoy spending time with all these other drivers over the weekend. I’m definitely going to enjoy it a lot. Having the chance to drive so many different cars is a great challenge and takes us out of our comfort zone as a driver. But the main thing is to have fun.”
Patricio O’WARD, 2018 Indy Lights Champion (Team Mexico)
“I think we’re ready for a fun weekend, and there’s no better place to do it than in Mexico. The Mexican race fans are really into their motorsport so hopefully we will have lots of people coming out and cheering for our team tomorrow and on Sunday. The cars are different to anything I’ve ever driven, and the quickest of them all is the Vuhl. The toughest part will be not touching the walls because you get one warning and if you touch them a second time that’s a five-second penalty. Now we just have to do our best to give the home fans something to cheer.”
Tom KRISTENSEN, nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner (Team Nordic)
“This weekend I’m equalling Stig Blomqvist’s record of 15 appearances at the Race Of Champions, and I’m always very happy to be asked to come back. This is only my second time in Mexico but we’ve been warmly welcomed here. This event is fun: it’s good to meet people from different categories: we socialise until we put our helmet on, when we get serious. Then we take it off, smile again and head to the lounge. But looking at some of the drivers taking part, yes I feel very old…”
Johan KRISTOFFERSSON, double World Rallycross Champion (Team Nordic)
“It’s an honour to be here and I’ll try to enjoy the experience as much as possible. I tested some of the cars today and it was interesting, We’ll find out tomorrow and Sunday whether there is any advantage coming from rallycross, but the other drivers looked good on the track too. There are plenty of good, experienced drivers here so it’s always a big challenge, but of course I’ll do my best.”
Daniel SUAREZ, 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion (Team Telcel Mexico)
“I’m super-excited about this race, having the chance to meet all these great drivers from all over the world, and to have them all racing in my country. We’ve already had a lot of fun, trying to work out how to drive all these cars with different transmission, suspension, grip, traction, weight, everything. It will be interesting to see how they develop over the coming days. Above all, it’s been several years since I last raced in Mexico, so it’s great to be back home.”
Ryan HUNTER-REAY, 2014 Indy 500 winner (Team USA)
“It’s great to be back at the Race Of Champions again for my sixth appearance. Josef and I are back together racing for Team USA and we feel pretty good so far. It’s good to be in Mexico City too. I raced here back in my Champ Car days and now we are looking forward to putting on another great show this weekend. If you push a bit too hard in this event and make a mistake it’s very costly. So it’s about balancing that and being consistent.”
Josef NEWGARDEN, 2017 IndyCar Champion (Team USA)
“I’m glad to be back alongside Ryan again on Team USA. To do well in that event it’s not just about one guy, it’s cumulative and both guys have to perform. So for now we have to help each other out and we’re trading tips, then on Sunday we’ll try to beat each other. It’s a special environment here because it’s so much more relaxed than the races we normally compete in. We want to beat everyone else but at the same time we’re goofing off all the time. That makes it all the more enjoyable.”
Enzo BONITO, 2018 eROC Champion (Team Sim Racing All Stars)
“Last year it was one of the first experiences I’d had with a proper car, so it was an achievement to race with these champion drivers. I’ve since gained more experience in real cars, so I feel a bit more prepared this time – and now it’s definitely good to be back again this year as a ‘proper’ driver! We’ll see how it goes but it’s great to be here in Mexico too. The people are amazing and the country is everything I expected and more.”
Brendon LEIGH, 2019 eROC World Finalist (Great Britain)
“I don’t come from a motorsport background and I don’t have a driving licence yet but throughout this weekend we’ll be doing tests in real cars on the ROC Skills Challenge course and on the real track. We will then combine lap times from the track and the sim, and whoever comes out on top will go through to compete in the main event itself. The key difference between sim racing and real life is that there is a big fear factor which takes time to get over. If you crash in the sim there’s no damage, no budget to think about, you can just press the reset button. But in a real car I haven’t crashed yet, and I don’t want to find out how it feels…”
James BALDWIN, 2019 eROC World Finalist (Great Britain)
“Yesterday – when we drove the ROC Cars and the KTM X-Bow around the Foro Sol track – was the best afternoon of my entire life. I’m certain that the KTM on the sim was pretty much exactly how it felt. On the sim all your wheels have force feedback so you can detect how the car’s behaving. If you change the roll bar on the sim, the change is exactly the same as it is in real life, so the skills are very transferable. It’s close between the four of us, especially on the track with the ROC Car. It will be tough competing with these guys but I’m looking forward to it.”
Sebastian JOB, 2019 eROC World Finalist (Great Britain)
“You can learn the basics of racing from simracing – and all the same concepts are applicable to the real world: braking, being careful on the throttle, etc. So everything is transferable in some way. Eyesight is important in sim racing as you have to rely on your eyes more, rather than feeling everything through the body – like if the car is getting loose. Sometimes it can be hard to get the most out of a real car if you’re also having to deal with real-life G-forces and the fear factor, so it’s about getting rid of that mental block.”
Nils NAUJOKS, 2019 eROC World Finalist (Germany)
“I’m the oldest simracer here; I was mainly competing over ten years ago and since then this world has become much more professional. The biggest difference between simracing and real racing is that you don’t have G-forces on the simulator. You also just have a small screen so you don’t see everything around you. So in real life you take in much more without really knowing it, but the ROC Car felt especially natural when I tried it yesterday. But it’s going to be close between us because everyone is doing well so far.”
You can watch the event LIVE all over the world on networks including Fox Sports (Latin America and Australia), Televisa and TDN (Mexico), CBS Sports Network, Motor Trend OnDemand and Univision (USA), ARD/ZDF (Germany), Sky Sports (UK and Ireland), Arena Sport (Eastern Europe), Viasat (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden), J-Sports (Japan), Jackie Chan DC Media (China), HK-Cable (Hong Kong), Astro (Malaysia), Automoto La Chaine (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Turkey), OTE (Greece), Cyta (Cyprus), A Bola (Portugal), Darmatex (Bulgaria) and Motorsport TV (Russia).
Territories without a live broadcaster will be able to watch the live stream on ROC's Facebook page. In addition all territories will be able to watch live coverage of eROC on ROC's Facebook page tomorrow from 10.15am local time in Mexico (UTC -6).
For access to rights-free high-resolution imagery and to keep up with all the latest news ahead of ROC Mexico please visit www.raceofchampions.com, Race Of Champions on Facebook plus @raceofchampions and #ROCMexico on Twitter.