Sat 19 January 2019
Team Nordic’s Tom Kristensen and Johan Kristoffersson are celebrating after they took a stunning victory in the ROC Nations Cup at Mexico City’s Foro Sol.
On a sunny afternoon in the Mexican capital, legends from many of the world’s biggest motor sport series teamed up in pairs to battle for national and regional pride. They raced a mix of cars – including the VUHL 05 ROC Edition 2019, Ariel Atom Cup, Stadium Super Truck, RX Supercar Lite, Speed SXS UTV, KTM X-Bow and ROC Car – on a purpose-built pursuit track.
And what a festival of action it was – as ‘Mr Le Mans’ Kristensen and reigning FIA World RallyX Champion Kristoffersson prevailed in the final against the might of Team Germany. In the first heat Kristensen beat off the challenge of four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel by two races to one. This year's FIA Formula 3 European Champion Mick Schumacher struck back in style for Team Germany by beating Kristoffersson 2-0 in the second heat. But Kristensen, competing in a record-equalling 15th Race Of Champions, was just too strong in the decider, taking the ROC Nations Cup trophy for Team Nordic.
Afterwards a delighted Kristensen said: “That was a very tight fight, as you saw with my race with Sebastian. Then Mick had a brilliant fight with Johan that took it to the decider. He should be very proud of himself on his first visit to the Race Of Champions – and I’m always proud any time I beat a Schumacher.
“So we are both very proud to take Team Nordic to the win today. It was Johan who brought us into the final, because he was very strong early on. He started the day better and I finished the day better, and it worked out in the end. The Mexican crowd has a lot of passion and we loved being here. This was my 15th ROC appearance, equalling Stig Blomqvist’s record. I hope Stig is watching it somewhere and I hope he’s a bit proud of me even if I’m not a Swede!”
Kristoffersson added: “The Race Of Champions is a tough event – to work all the way through the group stages then go to the semi-finals and final. We had some crucial victories along the way and then Tom brought home the biggest trophy. It’s my first time in Mexico and I’m really happy to be here, and to be a part of the event against some of the best drivers in the world. I think it will be a long night but now we have one trophy, we can be a bit more relaxed about the individual event tomorrow. So let’s see what happens but first we have to get through tonight…”
Beaten finalists Team Germany also had a fine afternoon’s work, but they narrowly missed out on bringing home the trophy.
Schumacher said: “This was a great experience, and it was special to share it with Sebastian. He’s done an awesome job and without him we wouldn’t have made it into the final. So we’re happy to have had a good run in the ROC Nations Cup. We did well – not quite enough to get the win, but second place is not too bad.
“It’s great for the Mexican fans to see so many different drivers and nationalities as well. There has been a lot to take in but I was happy to be here to fight against some legendary drivers all the way to the final. During one race against Helio Castroneves I also took my sister Gina as a passenger. I guess she brought me some luck because I won that one, so I was happy to win with her too. Now we can turn our focus to tomorrow’s individual Race Of Champions.”
Vettel added: “Mick and I can be proud of what we did today. It would have been great to go home with the trophy but it’s never easy to get all the way through the Race Of Champions, and we did well. There’s no shame in losing against Tom and Johan, who are world class drivers and they were just a bit too quick today. In the final I had a good feeling in the rallycross car, but Tom was a bit quicker.
“It’s fun to be here in Mexico, we’re all from the same motorsport family and we don’t get to spend much time together so this is a nice way to do it. As for tomorrow, anything can happen. With the format we have at the Race Of Champions, it’s so competitive you have to get everything right. It’s about adapting to the cars without mistakes and finding the flow. It will largely depend on our form tonight in the bar…
“Most of all it’s obviously very special to have teamed up with Mick today. I remember my first Race Of Champions appearance and looking up to Michael. We all know it would be more special to have Michael here to witness Mick’s performance today, but I’m sure he would be proud of his son.”
The home fans enjoyed cheering on Team Mexico’s F1 star Esteban Gutierrez and 2018 Indy Lights Champion Patricio O’Ward all the way to the semi-finals, before they were finally defeated by Team Nordic. Team Brazil (Helio Castroneves and Lucas di Grassi) also made it as far as the semi-final before they were beaten in straight heats by Team Germany.
The afternoon’s action began with the 10 teams split into three round-robin groups. On a day of match-ups between huge stars of world motor sport, many superstars fell by the wayside at this early stage.
The might of Team France (F1 ace Pierre Gasly and Le Mans star Loïc Duval) were one of the early casualties, defeated in Group A despite a win apiece. Team Infinitum Mexico (Memo Rojas and Benito Guerra) also went out with two wins. Both teams were defeated by Team Germany and Team Mexico, who both progressed with four wins each. Team Germany were placed at the top of the group as a result of having the faster times in the ROC Skills Challenge.
Team Brazil came out on top of Group B with three wins at the expense of two teams who were only decided this morning. Team Sim Racing All Stars (eROC World Final winners Enzo Bonito and James Baldwin) each took a win but went out. Team Telcel Mexico (NASCAR ace Daniel Suarez and this morning's ROC Mexico kart race winner Ruben Garcia Jr) also departed at this stage with a single win between them.
Team Nordic’s Group C triumph with three wins also resulted in some of motorsport’s biggest names leaving the competition. Team Great Britain (David Coulthard and Andy Priaulx) ended up on two wins while Team USA’s pair of IndyCar champions Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden finished with a single victory.
After the ROC Nations Cup finished it was time to raise the national pride stakes even further with a special Mexico versus The World contest. This time the home drivers took on all the other drivers in a head-to-head shootout in both simracing and real cars.
The world team secured early wins on the track with Formula 1 superstars Vettel and Gasly. Mexico hit back through Garcia Jr and Suárez, but ROC Nations Cup finalists Kristoffersson and Schumacher sealed the victory before the world team went on a lap of honour of the Foro Sol stadium.
Earlier in the day James Baldwin came out on top in the eROC World Final between some of the world’s fastest gamers. The action took place both in real-life ROC Cars on the Riyadh track and in the virtual world of Assetto Corsa. The Briton saw off the challenge of fellow countryman Brendon Leigh in an enthralling final to win his place on the ROC Nations Cup grid. Sebastian Job and Nils Naujoks also performed well but were knocked out in the group stages.
Before today’s action the drivers took part in the ROC Skills Challenge, a special course set up near the Foro Sol track featuring chicanes, slaloms, 360° turns and parallel parking. There was an early triumph for Vettel, whose time of 42.72s edged Kristoffersson into second place by little over a tenth of a second.
There is plenty more action to come in Mexico City on Sunday as the drivers put their regional friendships aside and go it alone in the individual Race Of Champions. All the action runs from 1pm to 4pm local time (UTC -6).
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), MBC/KSA Sports (Middle East), 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.
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 #ROCMexico on Twitter.
David COULTHARD (Great Britain) 13-time Formula 1 grand prix winner
Tom KRISTENSEN (Denmark) nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner
Patricio O’WARD (Mexico) 2018 Indy Lights Champion
Winner of Round 1A between the ROC Mexico Sunday winner* and Andy PRIAULX
Johan KRISTOFFERSSON (Sweden) double FIA World Rallycross Champion
Lucas DI GRASSI (Brazil) 2016-2017 Formula E Champion
Josef NEWGARDEN (USA) 2017 IndyCar Champion
Winner of Round 1B between Loïc DUVAL and Helio CASTRONEVES
Sebastian VETTEL (Germany) four-time Formula 1 World Champion
Daniel SUAREZ (Mexico) 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion
Benito GUERRA (Mexico) 2012 Production World Rally Champion
Winner of Round 1C between Memo ROJAS and Mick SCHUMACHER
Pierre GASLY (France) Formula 1 driver for Red Bull Racing in 2019
Esteban GUTIERREZ (Mexico) Formula 1 driver for Sauber and Haas
Ryan HUNTER-REAY (USA) 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner
Winner of Round 1D between Enzo BONITO and James BALDWIN
*Before the day’s action Mexican drivers Rubén García Jr, Pancho Name, Abraham Calderón, Martín Fuentes, Ricardo Triviño, Rubén Rovelo, Ricardo Sánchez and Ricardo Cordero will fight it out for a place in the ROC field.