OFFICIAL ROC PRESS CONFERENCE AND DRAW
15 December 2007
All 16 drivers competing in The Race of Champions tomorrow were present at the official press conference at Wembley Stadium this afternoon, where they also found out who they will be facing in the first heats of the competition.
The draw went as follows:
Michael Schumacher Vs Henning Solberg
Jenson Button Vs Alister McRae
Jimmie Johnson Vs Sebastien Bourdais
David Coulthard Vs Petter Solberg
Heikki Kovalainen Vs Sebastian Vettel
Andy Priaulx Vs Yvan Muller
Mattias Ekstroem Vs Tom Kristensen
Marcus Gronhoelm Vs Travis Pastrana
2003 World Rally Champion, Petter Solberg (drawn against David Coulthard):
"Henning is older and having started a career, I followed him up so I have to think that he is wiser as well! I have only seen pictures of the track so far and this is the first time I've done The Race of Champions. I'm very happy to be here.
"It's a strange thing. I went on holiday not too long ago and I met Coulthard in the breakfast room so maybe this was fate! I'm looking forward to this; I was sure it would be me and Henning but maybe we'll meet later."
Five-time Norwegian Rally Champion, Henning Solberg (drawn against Michael Schumacher):
"There is a lot of inter-brother rivalry at home with me and Petter but here we're focussed on the ROC Nations Cup. It will be very hard but let's see where we will end. We will go for maximum attack.
"To be drawn against Michael is fantastic. To meet the world champion is great and I'm really looking forward to it."
McLaren F1's Heikki Kovalainen (drawn against Sebastian Vettel):
"Both me and my team-mate, Marcus Groenholm, have won this before. I won in 2004 and Marcus in 2002 and together we won The ROC Nations Cup last year. This year I would like to win them both! That would be a good end to a good to a good week after signing for McLaren F1."
Double World Rally Champion, Marcus Groenholm (drawn against Travis Pastrana):
"I think Heikki could do it! I'm sure there is a good chance, but I would like to win both as well! We'll start with The ROC Nations Cup and go from there! When I won we were on the outdoor track. In the stadium the walls are too close! But it's OK."
Two-time and reigning NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson (drawn against Sebastien Bourdais):
"Four-wheel-drives are something I'm not familiar with, but I had eight laps of practice today so I should be just fine! We've got to be confident because we're all racing drivers! In the race, there'll be no spotter to talk to me and no other drivers around me to race so it will be very different.
"This really is an event to come and meet all these great drivers and drive cars I've never really even seen before! I love the challenge and it's great to represent my country on foreign soil."
Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel (drawn against Heikki Kovalainen):
"I'm pretty excited and thrilled to see the track. I've only seen very short bits and I have to practice this afternoon. I've never raced with a roof over my head but I've done some laps in a WTCC car. I've never driven a rally car so that will be interesting! In fact nothing off track.
"I think Heikki won The Race of Champions in 2004; I didn't even have a driving license then! I've never driven on a circuit like that but then he probably hadn't when he won either!"
Triple and reigning World Touring Car Champion, Andy Priaulx (drawn against WTCC rival Yvan Muller):
"The only different thing with The Race of Champions is that I can't rely on the reverse grid this weekend! It's so intense; you have one opportunity. But it's a great event, a superb track and it's going to be a real buzz for me and Jenson to be in front of our home crowd. I quite like the rear-wheel-drive because I'm used to it from the WTCC. I thought I would make quite a good rally driver but I ran out of talent mid-corner and put the Ford Focus WRC in the barrier!
"In terms of being drawn against Yvan, I'm just going to have to fiddle around with his fuel pump again!"
Formula One star Jenson Button (drawn against Alister McRae):
"I'm slightly nervous but also looking forward to it. There's some great cars out there. Some of these guys have practiced this morning so I'm trying to get the low down. It sounds slippery! The rally cars are probably the most exciting. WRC is one of the reasons I'm here so hopefully I'll get a go.
"I have to say that I'll be taking it easy tomorrow; having a bit of fun and if I'm quick I'll probably take it a bit more seriously! When we put our helmets on it's about the show. Being able to perform in Wembley is a dream; hopefully it will be for more than just a couple of minutes! We're all pretty excited about the weekend."
Red Bull Racing's David Coulthard (drawn against Petter Solberg):
"It's early days. I've only just arrived but it's always a good atmosphere back stage. It's probably the event of the year because I might even have a chance of winning this one! I think all the single-seater drivers will say that we're used to driving a very fixed line and don't slide a great deal. I think I've seen progression over the last few years in this event. The first year I was really shaky but my team-mate Colin (McRae) helped me to get more comfortable with sliding the car. I'll be picking Alister's (McRae) brain about it this year!"
Two-time DTM Champion Mattias Ekstroem (drawn against Scandinavia team-mate Tom Kristensen):
"I think everyone has the same chance of doing a great job. We have to be able to drive quick in all the different cars. I did my practice and some of the cars are more difficult. The guy who will learn the quickest will be the winner I think. Turn one will be very tricky. When the grip is coming, we will be pretty quick and there's concrete walls all around!"
Four-time Champ Car Champion Sebastien Bourdais (drawn against Jimmie Johnson):
"Every year The Race of Champions is a one-off and you always have a great time. It's not in Paris this year and there have been quite a few changes to the track. Jimmie is a great champion and it seems like it's going to be a US start with NASCAR vs Champ Car."
World Touring Car Championship star Yvan Muller (drawn against WTCC rival Andy Priaulx):
"It will be difficult to have a good result tomorrow because all the drivers are so good. This is very different to ice racing; less slippery of course. It's especially interesting to jump from one car to another one.
"Being drawn against Andy, hopefully I can get my revenge for the last WTCC round!"
Seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher (drawn against Henning Solberg):
"I've been here two years ago at the event in Paris and it has been fun. My team-mate Sebastian called me some months ago to ask how to train, what he had to do. I told him to come here to enjoy and have fun. It's natural to want to win but if not, then OK.
"The whole room is full of fantastic drivers in very different categories. I don't think it's fair to mention one; how can you?"
Seven-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen (drawn against Team Scandinavia team-mate Mattias Ekstroem):
"Being drawn against my team-mate will stop the information flow between us I think! But I think the Nations Cup is important. If you progress, then you can get more experience for The Race of Champions later on."
Eight-time X-Games Champion Travis Pastrana (drawn against Marcus Gronhoelm):
"I'm used to competing in stadiums with the FMX. Last year my USA team-mate Jimmie Johnson got hurt so I got a bit of extra track time. I made it all the way to the finals. This year, with Jimmie, we should go all the way. He turns left so good that he doesn't even have to turn right!"
1995 British Rally Champion Alister McRae (drawn against Jenson Button):
"I was runner up in 1998 so I just need to go one better. That may be not quite so easy with this line-up! Colin always said that Coulthard was better after a drink, so we're going to take him and make him drink even at breakfast tomorrow morning!"