Text by: Ben Photos by: Ben
The final day of the Race Of Champions drew crowds to the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok. Finally, after the fun of the ROC Thailand and ROC Asia that took place on Friday 14thDecember and the excitement of the Nations Cup on Saturday, it was finally time for the Race Of Champions per se on Sunday.
The spectators filled the seats and eagerly waited for all the drivers to be ready to fight to decide who the best of the best was in 2012.
16 drivers, 7 different cars, 2 laps, 1 title. It all came down to this.
While the crowds were cheering the loudest for the Thai drivers that had made it through the Friday selection, it was rather obvious that the public’s favourites were the two men who had made their country the Fastest Nation on Earth the previous day: the Germans Vettel and Schumacher.
All 16 drivers were split into 4 groups of 4, leading to the quarter finals. From there, Group A and B winners would fight to get in the semi finals while Group C and D did the same, before the final fight for the title.
Right from the start, things were looking interesting as Vettel and Schumacher were in Group C and D respectively, which meant that if they both qualified through the quarter finals, they would have to drive against each other in the semi finals. This meant that there would not be a German final race, as many would have liked to see.
The parallel track was opened and Group A started its quarter finals qualifying run, which was won by Frenchman Sébastien Ogier and British David Coulthard.
Group B’s fastest men were Denmark’s Tom Kristensen and China’s Ho-Pin Tung.
The fight between these four men was won by Kristensen and Coulthard, who then faced each other in the semi finals.
The retired F1 driver’s skills and experience were not enough to match the outstanding driving technique of the 8-time Le Mans 24 Hours race winner, and the race ended when Coulthard missed his braking and bust through the barriers at the same place where Mick Doohan went off the previous day. Luckily no one was hurt (other than the Lambo), and Kristensen won himself a shot at becoming the Champion among Champions.
On the other side of the roster, Group C and D saw Vettel and Schumacher face Grosjean and Doohan respectively in the quarter finals.
While everyone expected to see the Germans face each other in the semi finals, the crowd was surprised when Romain Grosjean crossed the line ahead of Vettel. This made it the second year in a row that Sebastian Vettel was put out of the competition in the quarter finals.
The last quarter final of the roster, opposing F1 legend Schumacher against Moto GP legend Mick Doohan, was won by the charismatic German driver.
Group C and D’s semi finals faced Romain Grosjean and Michael Schumacher. The Frenchman must have been feeling particularly fast, or maybe he was motivated by the Nations Cup’s loss against the German, as he crossed the line first. I don’t need to mention that the crowd was rather surprised, as most seemed to expect Schumacher to have a go at the title.
So it all came down to Kristensen facing Grosjean. Le Mans/DTM vs GP2/F1. France against Denmark.
The finals were played in the best of 3 rounds, or the first driver to win twice. With Kristensen, who finished in 2ndplace during last year’s ROC, motivated to make this 12th attempt at the title successful, the two drivers jumped in the ROC buggies for two hot laps around the small track. Unfortunately for the Danish, Grosjean proved himself faster in this heat.
The second round of the finals pitted the two men in the KTM X-Bow, and once again Romain Grosjean proved to be the fastest, making him the Champion of Champions 2012.
The French driver seems to have liked the attention and fame of being on the top step of the podium, especially after his 2012’s rather quiet season. Hopefully this will motivate him to give it a better try for the 2013 season!