Written by Morgan Holiday, Edited by Harshi Vashee
This past weekend twenty of the world’s best racing drivers gathered in snowy Pite Havsbad, in Sweden to face off for the Race of Champions. By the time the competition was over, Norway had won the Nations’ Cup, and Sebastien Loeb had been crowned the Champion of Champions for the fourth time.
But that was far from all that happened over the weekend, so let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
5. Lucas Blakely beats Sebastian Vettel
One of the very first fights to take place on Saturday was Germany vs. eROC Allstars, and four time Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel faced off against F1 Esports driver Lucas Blakely in the very first heat for the two teams. Despite having no real life racing experience, Blakely took the win against Vettel by 0.080s in the RX2e electric car.
While the German team went on to beat Blakely and his teammate Jarno Opmeer to a spot in the quarter-finals, this first shock of the weekend was exciting to watch and merely an indicator of the racing to come. It also proved definitively that the Esports drivers are well worth taking seriously, when one can come out on top of a world champion in equal machinery on the same track.
4. USA to finals in Nations’ Cup
Blakely wasn’t the only one to take an underdog victory on Saturday. USA’s Jimmie Johnson and Colton Herta didn’t have high expectations for the weekend, and were elated to beat the Latin America team to make it to the quarter-finals.
Johnson had joked the night before: “Two Californian guys who have never driven on snow and ice before, what could go wrong?”
As it turns out, not much. The unlikely American heroes next beat Germany to make it to the semi-finals, and then Finland to make it to the final stage. While in the end they couldn’t really contend with the Norwegian father-son duo and were beaten 3-1, the fact that they made it there in the first place was impressive enough.
3. Norway win the Nations Cup
At the end of the racing on Saturday, Norway took their first ever win in the Nations’ Cup after beating Team Sweden, Team Nordic, and finally Team USA.
It wasn’t just a first win for Norway, but also the first time a father-son duo has won the Nations’ Cup, with Rally drivers Petter Solberg and his son Oliver Solberg making history in multiple ways on the same day.
The pair did well to take it to the end, and making a somewhat unexpected appearance in the finals with the even more unexpected appearance of Team USA ,gave the crowd an exciting show. Their win was well deserved and well celebrated by all involved, showing the companionship formed by the drivers throughout the week.
2. Oliver Solberg and Sebastien Loeb complete a dead heat
On Sunday the twenty drivers faced off to decide the Champion of Champions, and the margins between them were smaller than ever. But no margin was smaller than the one between the young Solberg and seven time Rally champion Loeb in the quarter-finals. Racing the RX2e for the second heat, the two Rally drivers came across the line at exactly the same time, setting an identical 1:37.505
Because Loeb had won the first heat between them he was the one who advanced to the semi-finals, but the real winners were everyone who witnessed the evenly matched fight between two talented drivers at completely different points in their careers.
1.Sebastien Loeb wins the Race of Champions
After beating both the Solbergs and then Matthias Ekström, Loeb was into the ROC finals, where he faced off against Germany’s Sebastian Vettel. Vettel had nine previous ROC wins under his belt, and Loeb had three.
After only winning one of the four heats he raced in on Saturday, Vettel came back with renewed passion on Sunday to defeat Emma Kimiläinen, Herta, and then Tom Kristensen to make it to the final showdown against Loeb.
In the end it was Loeb who won out, taking three heat wins to Vettel’s one. It was hardly a surprise to see him win, not to anyone who watched him take his 80th win in the World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo earlier this year. Still, Loeb’s fourth ROC victory was hard fought and well won, a fantastic end to an even more fantastic weekend of racing.
Overall, this year’s Race of Champions was a smashing success, with the hard racing second only to the atmosphere of camaraderie that was very present in Pite Havsbad over the weekend.
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