London’s Wembley stadium was recently transformed into a giant Scalextric track for the annual televised Race of Champions.
In front of almost 50,000 fans, 16 motorsport legends, past and present, including Lewis Hamilton and David Coulthard, took part in the competition which consisted of two major events, the Race of Champions (ROC) Nations Cup, where drivers are paired up into teams based on their nationality to compete for their country, and the individual competition. The ROC is a knockout tournament to pit the world’s racing elite head to head in a competition to find the world’s fastest driver. To make the competition equal, all drivers compete in exactly the same cars.
This year’s ROC Nations Cup saw Team Germany, consisting of seven times world champion Michael Schumacher and Formula 1’s youngest ever race winner Sebastian Vettel, retain their crown, pipping Team Scandinavia to a close second.
Vettel, speaking at the press conference afterwards, described the difficult conditions on track after the morning deluge on the circuit: “The conditions were really difficult out there with all the oil on the track, it was also difficult to adapt to the different cars but I think we managed it quite well in the end.”
The individual event of the day, the Race of Champions proved to be highly unpredictable, Britain’s David Coulthard battling through three heats in the final only to be outwitted by five time rally champion and previous ROC winner Sebastien Loeb, who stole the spoils of victory at the last moment.
Loeb spoke afterwards of the importance of winning, although the competition is mostly for fun: “For sure, when you are on the start line, you want to win, but with this event there is not too much pressure. It’s a very tight track and you have to give everything you can. I didn’t get as much experience as some of the others, as I only did one ROC Nations Cup race, but it was a good weekend for me.”
The highly publicised “Man vs Machine” British face off between F1’s Lewis Hamilton and Sir Chris Hoy was called off at the last minute due to adverse track conditions, Hamilton instead treating the Bejing triple gold medallist to a parade lap of the Wembley circuit in his silver dream machine, a MacLaren SLR.
Hoy, who was later that day crowned Sports Personality of the Year, spoke of the decision to call off the competition.
“When I tried out the track on Wednesday, conditions were perfect,” he explained, “But thanks to the heavy rain yesterday, and the oil dropped on the track earlier today, I felt the track was too slippery for me to compete, despite the very best efforts of the ROC organisers.”