Mikko Jalonen, Race Of Champions correspondent
German Formula One champions, Sébastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher won the ROC: Nations Cup again for Team Germany and made the crowd go wild while Team Nordic of Tom Kristensen and Juho Hänninen had to settle for second.
The yearly held Race of Champions made its return to Germany and the ESPRIT Arena in the city of Düsseldorf for the second time in a row. Since 1999’s ROC, the Nations Cup has been held at the first day of the two day event and this year was no exception, and the home crowd favourites, Team Germany of Vettel and Schumacher were set to defend their 2010 ROC: Nations Cup for the team looking to win the cup for the fifth time in a row. As we already reported, Team Germany was very successful once more by winning the event but how did it happened? For that we tell more when we take a look at both group phases one by one and from there all the way to the final.
Team France of Sébastien Ogier and Romain Grosjean along with Team Nordic of Kristensen and Hänninen went through the group phase after scoring four wins to their tally while Sat1 Team Germany 2 of the two Timos: Scheider and Glock, had to settle for three wins and Team USA's Brian Deegan and Travis Pastrana were left with one single victory. Unfortunately for SAT1 Team Germany 2 and for Team USA this meant an early elimination as only the two best teams advanced to the semifinal from each group.
In the first round, Team Nordic and Team France scored one win each with Kristensen being faster than Grosjean in the VW Scirocco while Ogier was better than Hänninen in the Audi R8 LMS GT3 car. For the other two teams, points were also 1-1 after Glock took first points to SAT1 Team Germany 2 by being faster than Deegan, who overshot most of the corners, while Pastrana surprisingly beat Scheider with the Audi R8 LMS.
For the second matches of group A, France shared points with Germany 2 with each one taking a win while Team USA had a very tough time with Team Nordic losing both battles in the process. In the first battle between France and Germany 2, Glock almost spun his KTM X-Bow but held on making the crowd quite sure that it would be France and Grosjean who would take the win but just a few corners later, Grosjean made a similar kind of mistake and let Glock get past again for the victory. In the second battle between the teams, France’s Ogier took his own by showing his rally skills behind the wheel of a Skoda Fabia S2000, taking an easy win against Scheider. Team USA wasn't as lucky against Team Nordic. In the first battle, Deegan almost hit the wall with the KTM X-Bow and let Kristensen earn an easy win while Pastrana in the Skoda S2000 actually spun his car at first and later made contact with the bridge knocking off a piece of the front bumper in the process while racing against Hänninen.
As in the last matches, Nordic and SAT1 Germany 2 shared points with Kristensen winning the battle over Glock in the Audis and Scheider defeating Hänninen with a Scirocco. France won both matches against Team USA. France and Nordic then advanced to the semis to face off for going into the final.
In the semifinal, Team Nordic was better by winning both battles against Team France with Kristensen winning against Grosjean in the Audi. As for the duel between rally drivers, Hänninen was better than Ogier, ironically in the VW. In the event, Ogier also demonstrated the new VW Polo WRC car which he will drive during the 2013 WRC campaign.
In the B Group it was the defending champions, Team Germany and its drivers Schumacher and Vettel up against Team Great Britain with drivers Andy Priaulx and Jenson Button. Team Great Britain scored 5 wins while Team Germany earned 4 wins, eliminating Team Slavic's Jan Kopecky and Vitaly Petrov with 2 wins as the Team All Stars pair David Coulthard and Felipe Albuquerque took 1 win from the competition.
While in the first pair of matches, crowds witnessed an early setback to Team Germany when Schumacher lost his duel in the KTM against Petrov and was seen to complain about the gearbox not working properly. Vettel won his own against Kopecky driving the ROC buggy, making the final score 1-1. In the another pairing, Team Great Britain dominated Team All Stars by winning both starts with Button slightly edging Coulthard in the KTM while Priaulx was just faster than Albuquerque in a very clean race.
The second pair of matches saw Team Germany and Team Great Britain win both of their matches against Team Slavic and Team All Stars. Team Germany which was facing Team All Stars made it 1-0 when Coulthard jump started giving the win to Schumacher and 2-0 with the 2011 F1 Champion, Vettel winning against last year’s Champion of Champions, Albuquerque in the KTM. In the battle between Team Great Britain and Team Slavic, the same cars were used again with Priaulx being faster than Kopecky and Button took down Petrov.
At the third pair of matches, Team Slavic shared the points with Team All Stars while Team Germany and Team Great Britain went at their own duel, meaning Team Germany and Team Great Britain were to go through just to face each other again at the semifinal. In the third pair of matches we saw a couple of close moments when Petrov kissed the wall very heavily while driving against Coulthard in the FG Racecar, which by the sound and look reminds one of the type of crashes in NASCAR. Albuquerque tried everything to beat Kopecky with the Skoda by taking a bit too greedy of a line to the corner. Both Petrov and Albuquerque lost their matches.
In the semifinal of group B, Team Germany edged out Team Great Britain for the place in the final by winning 2-1. For the first match, Vettel won over Priaulx with the KTM while Button won his match against Schumacher driving the FG Racecar, taking revenge at the same time after a defeat in the group phase. In the third and final match which goes through to the final, Vettel was faster than Button in the KTM, earning a place to the final for Team Germany, handing them a chance to win the Nations’ Cup for a fifth time in a row.
Final: Team Germany vs Team Nordic
In the final Team Germany faced Team Nordic and didn't allow any chances for the Nordic team by winning both heats to become the ROC: Nations' Cup winner once more making the crowd go wild.
At the first duel in the final, Schumacher was handling the KTM X-Bow perfectly and didn't give Kristensen a break, which meant that if Vettel won his race with the ROC buggy against the Finnish rally driver, Hänninen, Germany would celebrate the win once more. Vettel did as planned, taking a reasonably easy win with quite a margin. After the final, Vettel's celebration didn't go as planned when the ROC buggy slipped to the grass of the soccer field as he did some winning donuts. In the interview after the race at the podium stage, Vettel hoped that his slide in the grass wouldn't make the soccer fans angry and hoped that he didn't destroyed the pitch too much. Vettel and Schumacher also thanked the fans in English and German languages, sending the crowd to a standing ovation as a way of sending their thanks back to the drivers. In the end, Team Germany winning at home soil crowned for many a perfect ending to the day!