Drivers get their first taste of ROC track

The opening practice session for The Race of Champions this weekend at the ESPRIT arena in Dusseldorf took place earlier today with the first group of drivers enjoying their first experience of the unique parallel track.

Alain Prost, Heikki Kovalainen, Tom Kristensen, Andy Priaulx, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Alvaro Parente and Bertrand Baguette tried out a variety of cars, including the awesome Audi R8 LMS, the ROC car and FJ Racecar.

This first group of drivers held a press conference directly after the session to give their impressions of the event, the cars and the track. Here are their comments:

Alain Prost: "To be here today is very nice for me. Obviously I am enjoying the experience because I am here with all these guys in the same cars and the same conditions, but it's also tough. It is hard to get the right feeling and the right driving position in all the cars so I have to adapt my style. It is my first time at the Race of Champions so I know it is not going to be easy, but the most important thing for me is to have fun."

Heikki Kovalainen: "I have good memories of The Race of Champions having won the event in 2004. For the last couple of years I have not been here but this year I had the opportunity so it is good to compete again and I am looking forward to the weekend. There are a lot of good drivers here so it is going to be tough but let's see what I can do together with Tom in the ROC Nations Cup for Team Nordic."

Tom Kristensen: "I think Team Nordic can go very far - Heikki has a very good record in this event. I would like to be in the final and do better than when I was against Sebastien Loeb in the 2005 Race of Champions final at the Stade de France, when I crashed out. It would be nice to have a good result because this is a great event with a great atmosphere. We have a lot more cars this year and it will be a great challenge to be tapped on the shoulder five minutes before your race and told only then which car you have to drive."

Andy Priaulx: "It's great to have Jason Plato on board as part of Team GB; I think he will be very exciting both on and off the track! I am missing Jenson Button, who was my Team GB team-mate last year because he was great fun last year and we were getting faster and faster. Hopefully, fingers crossed, Jason will be really quick and we will have good fun."

Jeroen Bleekemolen: "I have to say all the cars are nice to drive and all the people involved have put in a lot of effort to make the cars run well, with not too much understeer or oversteer. Practice was a good experience this afternoon and I am sure it will only get better."

Alvaro Parente: "It is great to have the opportunity to be here after the good time I had winning ROC South Europe for Team Portugal with Filipe Albuquerque. It is fantastic to race against all these great drivers. I hope we can repeat what we did in Portugal but it will be difficult as these cars are very different to the single-seaters I am used to. You have to adapt fast to every car so it is a big challenge."

Bertrand Baguette: "First of all I want to say thanks to all the Belgian fans who voted for me to be here in The Race of Champions and representing Team Benelux in the ROC Nations Cup. I am very proud and happy to be here driving against a lot of good drivers - it is very important for me to be here."

-source: roc