Monday, August 20The Voice of London

Race Of Champions Returns To London

Three years after the last event in Wembley Stadium, Race of Champions returns to England’s capital. This time it is the former Olympic Stadium, which is being rebuilt into a race track. Champions from all motorsport branches, including Formula One, Rallycross and Nascar, will fight against each other to secure the title in group and single races.

Words: Ena Bilobrk, Subeditor: Ludovica D’Angio

The former Olympic Stadium is ready. Source: Ena Bilobrk
The former Olympic Stadium is ready. Source: Ena Bilobrk

Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel is sure to secure the first trophy. The Nation’s Cup is the opening race of the competition with four countries competing against each other in teams.

“We will try to fight back, get the trophy back to Germany, the country where the sun is shining”, jokes Vettel. He adds: “It is nice to be back and it’s an honour to be on the grid and fighting for your nation. It is a privilege to be here with Nico (Hulkenberg).”

Rally Cross Champion Nico Hulkenberg will join Vettel in his race for the trophy. It is the first ROC for the Le Manse winner: “It is exciting, a fun event. It is great to be here. The Nascar looks pretty fun, and especially the buggies. I just have to survive in them.”

The Germans were joined at the late press conference by American Indy Car Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who got to the quarterfinals last year and he seems to enjoy the company of the rest: “It’s great to be with drivers around the world. We have a really good time as a group and it’s competitive at the same time”.

Amongst the three was the youngest, but very experienced driver and 2015 DTM winner  Pascal Wehrlein, who came out second in last year’s individual race. The German is not just excited to compete with legends of motorsport, but he is also excited about one particular moment: “I am looking forward to drive the old Formula One car with the loud engines. This will be amazing.”

Drivers press conference with Vettel, Wehrlein Hulkenberg and Hunter-Reay. Source: Ena Bilobrk
Drivers press conference with Vettel, Wehrlein Hulkenberg and Hunter-Reay. Source: Ena Bilobrk

Besides IndyCar, Le Mans, Rallycross and Touring Cars, there will be another horsepower beast, namely the Mercedes V8 Formula One car.

It is a spectacle not only for the drivers, but the viewers, as well. They will be able to enjoy two days of motorsport heaven, including adrenaline-filled motorbike show acts, roaring engines and the sense of petrol that lingers over the stadium for the weekend.

The first day of the ROC will host the Nation’s Cup, where Germany fights against Team England, Scotland, Australia, Brazil, Americas, Nordic and Team Young Stars.

On the second day, the Olympic Stadium will host the actual Race Of Champions, where the champions from all motorsport fields fight against each other individually in different categories.

Ferrari driver Vettel will face his former Red Bull team-mate Dani Ricciardo in the first race. He believes to have a tiny advantage: “I hope he has a good night out so it will work out well as he would be a bit weakened. He is not very strong on the Jägermeister…”

What makes the Race of Champions different from any other racing competition is that anyone can win.

Sebastian Vettel explains: “It is a tough competition, no matter whom you face. The tricky bit of the format is to get everything right in two laps. There is not much time to get used to the cars and the track.”

And this means even the underdog has a high chance of winning the competition. “There is always favourites, but what we’ve learned last year is that the unsuspected guys can be really fast. You can’t count anyone out”, knows Hunter-Reay.

But in the end the ROC is a pleasant change for the drivers. Vettel concludes: “It is just nice to spend time with guys that share the same passion. It’s just great to meet different drivers from different fields.”