THIS IS ROC
They don’t have this problem in athletics, golf or tennis. Those are sports where the best competitor on the day will win, period. Running shoes, clubs and racquets simply don’t matter as much as the human being attached to them.
Motor sport is different. With its wide range of different cars, Formula 1 alone throws up enough arguments about who’s ‘the best’ to keep the world’s bars buzzing into the early hours. Throw the World Rally Championship, Le Mans and IndyCar into the mix and all hell breaks loose. The title of ‘World’s Greatest Driver’ suddenly has as many candidates as there are world heavyweight boxing champions.
That’s where the Race Of Champions comes in, solving the debates once and for all. This annual event brings together the world’s finest drivers from all the disciplines of competition – on four wheels and two – and sets them free to battle, head-to-head, on the very same track in the very same car.
Better still, unlike all other types of motor sport, the unique stadium setting means the crowd gets much closer to the action. There’s no waiting around to see just one quick glimpse of the cars and stars – the whole course is permanently in view. The fans see every corner, every slide, every move, every spin.
For the racers, then, there’s no place to hide. It’s a knockout tournament so mistakes prove terminal – and the drivers have to prove themselves in a variety of vehicles. But there’s no blaming the machinery because everyone gets the same kit. Put simply, the best driver will win.
That’s why the greats of motor sport come back year on year. They crave the chance to let their hair down, free from commitments to sponsors, and push to the limit in everything from tin-tops to buggies. Better still, they love to hear the screams of thousands of fans over the roar of the engines.
But behind the smiles the inner steel hasn’t changed. As soon as they’re on the line watching the lights, engine revving, foot twitching, the winning mentality that earned them their glory returns. Add the spice of a flag attached to their cockpit – particularly during the ROC Nations Cup where they race for their home country – and they need no further motivation.
RACE OF CHAMPIONS
The Race Of Champions is a knockout competition where the world’s greatest drivers battle to prove they’re the fastest on Earth. Through a series of head-to-head races in identical cars, the stars fight it out to prove they have what it takes to be crowned ‘Champion of Champions’.
The event starts with a group stage to ensure fans get to see plenty of action from every driver. The racers face up to each of the other drivers in their group, with cars swapped round between heats so they all have to prove themselves in a variety of machinery. The most successful drivers move on to the quarter-finals.
From there it’s back to a head-to-head, no second chances, knockout competition to get to the semi-finals and then the Grand Final. Just as with all the world’s great cup competitions, the tension builds all the way through to this best-of-three shootout where there can be only one ‘Champion of Champions’.
ROC NATIONS CUP
The ROC Nations Cup aims to decide the fastest country on Earth. Featured at the Race Of Champions since 1999, it was the first motor sport event for teams based on nationality.
Drivers team up with their fellow countrymen in pairs. Each driver initially has one race against a driver from the opposing team, competing head-to-head in identical cars as in the individual Race Of Champions. If the score is tied at 1-1, the two winning drivers battle it out in a play-off to see which team emerges victorious.
The ROC Nations Cup now features a group stage in which nations race against every other nation in their group, with the four most successful teams progressing to the knockout semi-finals.
Germany’s Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel won a record sixth straight ROC Nations Cup title at Bangkok in 2012, adding to their previous triumphs in London, Beijing and Düsseldorf.
eRace Of Champions (eROC)
From Sim to Live racing, the eRace Of Champions competition is one of the most innovative amateur recruiting tools ever created in motorsports. It provides the unique opportunity for gamers, aspiring racers and any amateur to earn their competition licenses and their position on the starting line alongside the superstars of motorsports and eSports in less than a year after entering the competition.
The Race Of Champions was created in 1988, the brainchild of IMP (International Media Productions) President Fredrik Johnsson and Michèle Mouton, the most successful female rally driver of all time.
The first edition of the event, held in Paris, celebrated the 10th anniversary of the inaugural World Rally Drivers Championship, gathering all the sport’s champions together in identical cars. It was also held in memory of the late Henri Toivonen, who died at the Corsica Rally while leading the world championship in 1986. The Henri Toivonen Memorial trophy is still awarded to the winner of the Race Of Champions each year.
The Race Of Champions switched to its current parallel track format in 1989 at the Nürburgring, the first ever car race to do so. After establishing a temporary base in Gran Canaria from 1992 to 2003, the event has since taken in a variety of the world’s most evocative venues including the Stade de France in Paris, London’s Wembley Stadium and Beijing’s ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic Stadium. In 2010 it returned to German soil at Düsseldorf’s ESPRIT arena before heading to Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium in 2012.
Originally conceived as the ultimate shootout between the best international rally stars, experts from other motor sport disciplines increasingly craved their share of the action. Over the last decade in particular, the racers have given the rally boys more than just a run for their money. They include Formula 1 world champions Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, MotoGP legends Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Mick Doohan, eight-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen and serial NASCAR champions Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Rally stars still hold their own: Sébastien Ogier took the 2011 crown while six-time world champion Sébastien Loeb beat David Coulthard by a fraction of a second in the decisive heat of the 2008 final at Wembley for his third ROC title. Previous rally drivers who have won the event include the late Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol, who took a record four ROC victories.
Nevertheless, motor racing got its own back with Romain Grosjean's win in 2012. The tarmac racers also have their own multiple ‘Champion of Champions’ in DTM hero Mattias Ekström. The Swede took his third ROC win at Beijing in 2009, defeating Schumacher in the final after earlier knocking out reigning F1 champion Button. Clearly no respecter of legendary status, Ekström had taken his first title by defeating Loeb in the 2006 Paris final, before doing the same to Schumacher at Wembley the following year.
Schumacher has had his own back in the ROC Nations Cup, however, in partnership with countryman Sebastian Vettel. This event, hosted at the Race Of Champions every year since 1999, is like the World Cup of motor sport, pitching nation against nation in on-track battle courtesy of two fired-up drivers. Germany has won the last six titles, another record, but the other winners make up a cosmopolitan spread including France, Finland, Spain and the USA.