U.S. joins eight countries for World Cup of Motorsport
-- the 2002 Michelin Race of Champions Nations Cup.
Team USA was among the first to announce involvement in this year's Michelin Race of Champions Nations Cup--the annual contest that puts the world's fastest rally, motorcycle and circuit racers against one another in fierce head-to-head competition.
Representing the U.S. is four-time NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Jeff Gordon, Winston Cup rookie sensation Jimmie Johnson and World Superbike Champion Colin Edwards.
This year's ROC Nations Cup promises to be the most hotly contested in the event's four year history, as the Americans take on the fastest drivers and riders from France, UK, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Brazil and Italy. Many recently-crowned champions are among the international cast, including this year's World Rally champ Marcus Gronholm (Finland), CART's Cristiano da Matta (Brazil), Formula 3000's Sebastien Bourdais (France), 250cc MotoGP Champion Marco Melandri (It), European Rally victor Renato Travaglia (Itay), European Touring Cars champion Fabrizio Giovanardi (Italy), World Enduro's Kari Tiainen (Finland), 125cc Motocross champ Mickael Maschio (France) and Speedway GP winner Tony Rickardsson (Sweden).
Rounding out the rosters will be Formula One stars Fernando Alonso (Spain) and Nick Heidfeld (Germany), CART driver and former Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack (Sweden) as well as MotoGP riders Carlos Checa (Spain) and Alex Barros (Brazil).
2002 World Superbike Champion, Colin Edwards, who has replaced injured X-Games hero, Travis Pastrana, in the U.S.A. line-up commented on the assembled talent: 'There's nothing else like this in world motorsport. So many guys from so many sports, racing head-to-head in some awesome machinery. Personally, I can't wait.'
Supported by Michelin since the inaugural event in Paris in 1988, The Race of Champions was conceived, and remained for the first eleven years, a rally-only event that invited drivers to race head-to-head, side-by-side in exactly the same cars and on a figure-eight parallel-track. The premise was simple: using identical equipment and circuit, drivers could prove themselves based on their talent alone. In 1999, event promoters, seeing the potential for a World Cup of racing, introduced The ROC Nations Cup as a means of expanding that unique concept to other disciplines of motorsport and to allow racers to compete for their flags. In this event, three-man national teams--each comprising the country's best rally (or off-road), motorcycle and circuit racers--face off against one another in a series of 1-lap heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals leading up to the climactic final (this year, Saturday November 30th). The ROC Nations Cup is now a highlight of The Michelin Race of Champions weekend (November 29th -- December 1st), which is hosted by the Circuito Ciudad Deportiva rally circuit in Gran Canaria and is largely responsible for the recent explosive growth in media coverage of this weekend of racing: the event is now televised in more than 187 countries.
The nine countries in this year's ROC Nations Cup will be divided into three groups: each country will compete against all others in its group, with rally, circuit and motorcycle racers competing against their counterparts.
2002 Michelin Race of Champions -- Nations Cup Teams:
Kari Tiainen - Seven-time World Enduro Champion
JJ Lehto - 1995 Le Mans winner
Marcus Gronholm - 2000 & 2002 World Rally Champion
James Haydon - Superbike star
James Thompson -- British Touring Car Champion
Robbie Head - British rally star & Channel 4 expert commentator
Thomas Radstrom - WRC driver
Kenny Brack - 1998 IRL Champion & 1999 Indy 500 Champion
Tony Rickardsson - 2002 Speedway World Champion
Marco Melandri - 2002 250cc MotoGP World Champion
Fabrizio Giovanardi - 2000, 2001 & 2002 European Touring Car Champion
Renato Travaglia - 2002 European Rally Champion
Mickael Maschio - 2002 125cc Motocross World Champion
S0x00e9bastien Bourdais - 2002 Formula 3000 World Champion
S0x00e9bastien Loeb - 2001 World Junior Rally Champion Winner of the 2002 Deutschland Rally (WRC)
Pit Beirer - 250 cc Motocross World Championship rider
Nick Heidfeld - Sauber Formula 1 driver
Walter Rorhl - 1980 & 1982 World Rally Champion
Colin Edwards - 2000 & 2002 World Superbike Champion
Jeff Gordon - 1995, 1997, 1999 & 2001 Nascar Winston Cup Champion
Jimmie Johnson - Best Rookie in NASCAR Winston Cup history, 2002
Alex Barros - MotoGP star
Antonio Pizzonia -- Jaguar Formula 1 driver
Cristiano Da Matta - 2002 CART FedEx Series Champion
Carlos Checa - MotoGP star
Fernando Alonso - Renault F1 driver
Jesus Puras - 2002 Spanish Rally Champion
New for the 2002 event weekend, Friday's ROC America will feature NASCAR's Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, CART ace and 1999 Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack and 2002 CART champion Cristiano da Matta in a classic clash of the titans. Using the ROC Cars--specially-designed for the event--the best of American motorsport will fight it out in what will certainly be a fantasy match-up for many fans, since never before have the best of America's open-wheel and NASCAR gone head-to-head in equal machines.
"We're very excited about this new event," said event co-founder, Fredrik Johnson. "There is so much animosity between open- and closed-wheel racing in the U.S., so it will be interesting to see what happens when the best of these elite leagues go against one another on neutral ground."