THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE! The draw for this weekend’s Race Of Champions at Miami’s Marlins Park has thrown up some mouth-watering matches as some of the world’s greatest drivers bid for the title of ‘Champion of Champions’.
The draw for the group stages took place today at Marlins Park with the help of AutoNation’s Marc Cannon and Indianapolis 500 winners Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The drivers also took on some lucky competition winners today on the ROC Skills Challenge course at a special ROC Factor Miami presented by AutoNation event.
There are already a number of ties guaranteed to quicken the pulse of any race fan – featuring some of the world’s best drivers from series including Formula 1, NASCAR, IndyCar, Le Mans and Rallycross.
Saturday’s individual race will see 2015 NASCAR champion Kyle Busch race against Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button, plus 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan and last year’s Indy 500 pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe. 2004 NASCAR champion Kurt Busch also faces the toughest of starts when he faces ‘Mr Le Mans’ Tom Kristensen, 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and former ROC Champion of Champions David Coulthard.
Meanwhile, double Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya will take on World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg, 2015 DTM champion and new Sauber Formula 1 signing Pascal Wehrlein, and 11-time F1 race winner Felipe Massa who has come out of retirement to return with Williams later this year. The reigning ROC Champion of Champions, four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel, will begin the defence of his title against action sports great Travis Pastrana and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. They will be joined by the winner of a play-off between Global Rallycross Champion Scott Speed and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi.
The top two drivers in each group progress to the quarter-finals. Then it’s a knockout tournament all the way to the Grand Final, when this year’s Champion of Champions will be crowned.
Helio Castroneves said: “There’s not many places where you can sit this close to the cars and see all the action taking place in front of you. This is all about having a good time. As for my group? I’m not worried…! No, I respect all of the drivers and every one of them competing has some amazing qualities, plus switching cars throughout the event means the advantage will constantly be shifting. That’s why this is such a great event.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay added: “It’s unbelievable to be back in south Florida racing cars again. I did the Miami Grand Prix back in the day but to see a race track taking shape here in Marlins Park – where I bring my family for games – is incredible. And I also think it’s the best layout yet. I’m a home-town guy so hopefully the crowd will be cheering me on against two former ROC champions in my group. But I guess you might as well do the difficult bit at the start! I really want to thank AutoNation for being involved – not just on the charity side and fight against cancer – but also their general support for motorsport and work in the local community. I’m so thrilled that their proceeds are going to a local cause.”
Sunday’s ROC Nations Cup will take the tension up higher still as national pride is at stake, with ten teams split over three groups.
There are three home teams in action, all in the same Group A: Team USA NASCAR (Kyle and Kurt Busch), Team USA IndyCar (Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay) and Team USA Rally X (Travis Pastrana and Scott Speed) will all have to battle Team ROC Factor Canada (James Hinchcliffe and Stefan Rzadzinski).
Three European teams meet up in Group B: Team Germany (Sebastian Vettel and Pascal Wehrlein), Team Great Britain (Jenson Button and David Coulthard) and Team Nordic (Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg).
Finally, Group C is an all-South American affair: Team Brazil (Felipe Massa and Tony Kanaan), Team Colombia (Juan-Pablo Montoya and Gabby Chaves) and Team ROC Factor Latin America (Helio Castroneves and Gabriel Glusman).
The top two teams from Group A will meet in the semi-finals, guaranteeing a North American presence in the final. The winners of Groups B and C will meet in the other semi-final. The knockout rounds are best-of-three: if scores are tied at 1-1 after the first two heats, the third decisive heat is always contested by the two winning drivers.
Race Of Champions Draw (Saturday 21 January)
Sebastian VETTEL (Germany) four-time Formula 1 world champion
Travis PASTRANA (USA) action sports legend
Helio CASTRONEVES (Brazil) triple Indianapolis 500 winner
Either Scott SPEED (USA) double Global Rallycross Champion, or Alexander ROSSI (USA), 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner (to be decided by play-off)
Juan-Pablo MONTOYA (Colombia) double Indianapolis 500 winner
Petter SOLBERG (Norway) double FIA World Rallycross Champion
Felipe MASSA (Brazil) 11-time Formula 1 grand prix winner
Pascal WEHRLEIN (Germany) 2015 DTM champion and new Sauber Formula 1 driver
Jenson BUTTON (Great Britain) 2009 Formula 1 world champion
Kyle BUSCH (USA) 2015 NASCAR champion
Tony KANAAN (Brazil) 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner
James HINCHCLIFFE (Canada) 2016 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter
Tom KRISTENSEN (Denmark) nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner
Kurt BUSCH (USA) 2004 NASCAR champion
David COULTHARD (Great Britain) 13-time Formula 1 grand prix winner
Ryan HUNTER-REAY (USA) 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner
ROC Nations Cup Draw (Sunday 22 January)
Team USA NASCAR (Kurt Busch & Kyle Busch)
Team USA IndyCar (Ryan Hunter-Reay & Alexander Rossi)
Team USA Rally X (Travis Pastrana & Scott Speed)
Team ROC Factor Canada (James Hinchcliffe & Stefan Rzadzinski)
Team Great Britain (Jenson Button & David Coulthard)
Team Germany (Sebastian Vettel & Pascal Wehrlein)
Team Nordic (Tom Kristensen & Petter Solberg)
Team ROC Factor Latin America (Helio Castroneves & Gabriel Glusman)
Team Brazil (Tony Kanaan & Felipe Massa)
Team Colombia (Juan Pablo Montoya & Gabby Chaves)
Sunday’s action will conclude with a new, Ryder Cup-style points-based event that will make its debut at ROC Miami: America vs The World.
The six USA drivers will unite to take on the drivers from the rest of the world in an extreme driving challenge, with individual line-ups decided in advance by the team captains. Competing across a maximum of three rounds and 10 races, the winning team will be the first to amass eight points.
Round A features six races, each of which is worth one point to the winning driver’s team. Round B has just three races but with two points for a victory. If needed Round C will feature a final, single race showdown to decide the inaugural champions.
The Race Of Champions is an annual contest which has been held for over 25 years. It brings together some of the world’s greatest drivers from motor sport’s major disciplines – including Formula 1, NASCAR, IndyCar, Le Mans, Touring Cars, World Rally and action sports – and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery. All the racing takes place in a stunning range of superfast cars.
In recent years, ROC has visited the Stade de France in Paris (2004-2006), London’s Wembley Stadium (2007-2008), the ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic Stadium in Beijing (2009), Düsseldorf’s Esprit Arena (2010-2011), the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok (2012), Bushy Park Barbados (2014) and London’s former Olympic Stadium (2015).
Now the event is heading to the United States for the first time to soak up the heat of Miami. Florida’s sports fans will have a chance to watch the speediest action Marlins Park has ever seen as many of the world’s greatest drivers push to the absolute limit on a specially-designed racing track winding its way around the infield and outfield.
But that’s not all. The Race Of Champions has non-stop action from start to finish – featuring stunt shows on four wheels and two wheels plus DJs, cheerleaders and plenty of other entertainment to keep race fans on the edge of their seats.
ROC president Fredrik Johnsson said: “We are thrilled to be bringing such a stunning line-up of driving legends to Miami this weekend. Now we know who they’ll be facing in the group stages, the anticipation can build even higher. There are already plenty of mouth-watering battles ahead and the stakes will rise in the knockout stages both of Saturday’s individual Race Of Champions and Sunday’s ROC Nations Cup.
“We are also looking forward to capping off the weekend’s action with our brand new Ryder Cup-style America vs The World event. Now we hope to hear lots of partisan home support in the grandstands as we find out who will prevail on our unique track twisting around Miami’s Marlins Park. We’re pleased to say the tarmac has already started being laid so the track is already taking shape. If you love non-stop action and entertainment, see you there!”
Tickets for ROC Miami are now available via www.raceofchampions.com. For access to rights-free high-resolution imagery and to keep up with all the latest news ahead of this year’s event please visit the website, or search for Race Of Champions on Facebook, and @raceofchampions and #ROCMiami on Twitter.
Drivers confirmed for ROC Miami:
Sebastian VETTEL, four-time Formula 1 world champion (Team Germany)
Pascal WEHRLEIN, 2015 DTM champion and Sauber F1 driver (Team Germany)
Jenson BUTTON, 2009 Formula 1 world champion (Team GB)
David COULTHARD, 13-time Formula 1 grand prix winner (Team GB)
Tom KRISTENSEN, nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner (Team Nordic)
Petter SOLBERG, double FIA World Rallycross Champion (Team Nordic)
Juan-Pablo MONTOYA, 2015 Indianapolis 500 winner (Team Colombia)
Gabby CHAVES, 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year (Team Colombia)
Felipe MASSA, 11-time Formula 1 grand prix winner (Team Brazil)
Tony KANAAN, 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner (Team Brazil)
Kurt BUSCH, 2004 NASCAR champion (Team USA NASCAR)
Kyle BUSCH, 2015 NASCAR champion (Team USA NASCAR)
Travis PASTRANA, action sports legend (Team USA Rally X)
Scott SPEED, double Global Rallycross Champion (Team USA Rally X)
Alexander ROSSI, 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner (Team USA IndyCar)
Ryan HUNTER-REAY, 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner (Team USA IndyCar)
James HINCHCLIFFE, 2016 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter (ROC Factor Canada)
Stefan RZADZINSKI, 2016 ROC Factor winner (ROC Factor Canada)
Helio CASTRONEVES, triple Indianapolis 500 winner (ROC Factor Latin America)
Gabriel GLUSMAN, 2016 ROC Factor winner (ROC Factor Latin America)
Click here to SUBSCRIBE and hear Joe go one on one and side by side with Three Time Indy 500 Champ Helio Castroneves and the stars of motorsports at the Race Of Champions on this weeks WFO Radio IGNITION.