The estimated 55000 crowd came to magnificent new Wembley stadium to watch the 2007 Race of champions, The attendance was some what down on the expected 80000 and the large bowl clearly had a lot of empty seats but still the tension grew as the ...
The estimated 55000 crowd came to magnificent new Wembley stadium to watch the 2007 Race of champions, The attendance was some what down on the expected 80000 and the large bowl clearly had a lot of empty seats but still the tension grew as the build up started.
The action kicked off with the SolutionF cars and a race between Norway and France. The SolutionF cars, made in France with a Nissan engine, roared off the line driven by World Rally driver Henning Solberg and Champ car champion Sebastian Bourdais.
The drivers had a close battle in the early section of the race but Bourdais finished over four seconds ahead, quite a margin for the sub two minute race.
The second heat featured the 300bhp Ford Focus World Rally Cars driven by the Norwegian Petter Solberg and the Frenchman Yvan Muller.
The Focus rally cars proved to be a bit of a handful around this tight circuit especially as they were not set up for tarmac. World rally champion was at home in the rally car but world touring car driver Yvan Muller is used to ice racing which obviously helped him put in a good performance.
The two were separated by less than a third of a second, with Solberg taking the honors. Showman Solberg was hanging out of the car waving to the crowd to celebrate the victory.
The next race featured Finn Heikki Kovalainen and Tom Kristiansen from Denmark, Kristiansen driving for Scandinavia.
Kristiansen pulled out an early lead but Kovalainen soon got back into the race to finish nary a second ahead of the seven times Le Mans winner in a SolutionF car.
Next up , another race between Finland and Scandinavia.
This time with World Rally star Marcus Gronholm and DTM driver Mattais Ekstrom using the Ford Focus WRC.
Gronholm, two-time World Rally Champion knows this car well, he finished second in the world rally championship this year in one. Ekstrom, this years DTM champion and Last years Race of champion champion was ahead after the first section of the track but Gronholm took the win after Ekstrom tried too hard to fight off the Finn and lost time when he slid wide and lent on the concrete barrier on the last corner.
The UK battle of Scotland and England now started.
The First race was Jensen Button up against David Coulthard. The two F1 drivers were using the Fiat Grande Punto rally cars were close after the first section but Coulthard lost ground in the final section and Button took the win easily.
For the second England Scotland battle the Aston Martin N24 cars were rolled out. The other two team members Alistair McRae for Scotland and Andy Priaulx slid the large Astons around the tight circuit with a glorious V8 soundtrack with Priaulx taking the win.
It was down to American NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson to take on the seven times F1 world champion Michael Schumacher. Schumacher was clearly enjoying the experience and blew away Johnson in the four wheel drive Fiat rally car, winning by a good margin.
Johnson had been unable to compete at the previous ROC 'Last year I had broken wrist after messing around with some friends' he said.
F1 driver Sebastian Vettel was up against American Rally champion Travis Pastrana again in the 430bhp Astons.
Pastrana was up on the first split and took the win despite giving the barrier a bit of a knock.
Fortunately the Aston was fine as there was a real danger of running out of them after Kovalainen had an eventful time during the practice laps.
France and Norway had a shoot out, Petter Solberg and Bourdais had a short battle in the ROC cars with Bourdais hitting the barrier on the second corner damaging the suspension. Petter only had to finish, which he did, taking Norway through.
The next and only other shoot out was between Germany and America with Schumacher and Pastrana driving up to the start line in the ROC cars.
Schumacher was a second up after the split and was still head by the checkered flag taking Germany through.
Pastrana later said 'after I hit the first wall on the first turn, I decided I'd have to probably charge harder and that was absolutely the exact opposite of what I needed to do, so I just bounced off everything.'
The first semi final was Norway vs Finland, with Henning Solberg against Kovalainen. They were driving the Fiat Rally cars.
Henning being new to this event certainly helped Kovalainen take the win with relative ease. The other team members were up next and Brother Petter fared no better, opponent Gronholm taking the win.
The other semi final was a Germany, England battle. Using the SolutionF cars (It was reported Michael was unable to drive the Aston or Ford due to his contract with Ferarri) Schumacher made a good start but by the split Jenson was up, it was a close race but Schumacher had better drive out of the last corner and took the checkered flag.
Next the Ford Focus WRC cars were taken out by Vettel and Priaulx. Vettel compleated the double victory to knock Team Autosport England out of this part of the event.
Dameon Hill commented ' It was a close competition but Germany just had the edge.' he also said that Schumacher 'was inch perfect, centimeter perfect' when discussing his driving.
Vettel was very pleased to get through to the final and had said 'I almost put it into the wall on the first corner'.
The final started very badly for team Germany. Schumacher stalled the Fiat rally car on the line, Kovalainen completed the first section and the cross over and ended up on the same piece of track just behind Schumacher. The crowd went wild as the two fought around the narrow circuit. Kovalainen looked to be trying to pass Schumacher on the twisty section of the track but Schumacher managed to Kerp him behind until the straight section where he powered past the German driver. The spectators cheered the young Finn on to the victory, he was obviously thrilled and jumped out of the car after the finish line to acknowledge the praise.
Later Schumacher was asked about the poor get away and he said 'I just stalled it, my fault'.
The final looked to be in the bag for the Finnish pair when Gronholm and Vettel pulled up to the start line in the Ford WRC, Gronholm not only the rally driver of the pair but in his usual car.
This was no walk over though, Vettel fought hard and it couldn't have been closer.
Somehow Vettel managed to pull off the win against the two time world rally champion on the last corner when Gronholm went in too fast. In order to avoid hitting the barrier he slowed down and compromised his exit speed.
Vettel and Kovalainen opted to drive the decider in the ROC buggys.
Vettel looked strong at the start but by the first section it was too close to call, Kovalaiinen fought all the way but brushing the wall on the second to last corner slowed him enough for Vettel to take the win by around a second and a half.
Schumacher, despite his comments in the press conference where he had implied that the event was just a bit of fun, was clearly delighted to have won. He was standing on the safety barrier with both fists in the air as his teammate crossed the finish line, he ran across the track leaping over the barriers to congratulate his team mate.
Vettel too was ecstatic.