Not a bad effort for his first attempt - some consolation for the fact he won't be driving a WRC car next year...
•Sébastien Ogier hails ‘amazing’ Race Of Champions victory at his very first attempt•Beaten finalist Tom Kristensen declares ROC ‘better than Christmas’ after wins over Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel
•ROC Nations Cup winners Schumacher and Vettel still happy despite missing out on individual glory again
New ROC Champion of Champions Sébastien Ogier is celebrating after his ‘amazing’ win in Sunday’s Race Of Champions in Düsseldorf.
The rally ace defeated Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen in the final, but the Dane was still smiling after beating Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel in front of their home fans.
The two finalists put a stellar line-up of motorsport stars in the shade in head-to-head battles around the ESPRIT arena. After a breathless afternoon of action, this is what some of the drivers had to say:
Sébastien Ogier (Champion of Champions): “I’m so happy. It was a very nice weekend. Tom is a really good driver but to win this race at the first attempt is amazing. There are a lot of new cars to learn here plus the track as well. But I pushed hard all the way and I didn’t do too badly. I had a lot of fun out there though I want to congratulate Jan Kopecký for a nice race in the Skoda, which I’ll be driving next year. I was very proud to be invited to the Race Of Champions. It’s very nice to do it and to have the chance to meet all these great drivers. It’s a good party and a happy end to the year.”
Tom Kristensen (runner-up): “Sébastien is a very deserved winner. He had the edge on cold tyres, especially in the ROC car. But it’s great fun to be out driving so many cars – that is an amazing experience, and especially to make it to the final on both days. To beat both Michael and Sebastian was a really big achievement for me today, particularly in Germany. It’s something very special but it’s difficult to celebrate when you're not exactly giving the crowds the result they want! I did all I could in the final and I love being part of this event. It’s almost better than Christmas!”
Michael Schumacher (semi-finalist): “Of course I’d like to have gone further, but the whole point of this event is the atmosphere and the fun we have. Congratulations to Tom Kristensen for knocking me out in the semi-finals. It was pretty tight but it’s not about the two hundredths that separated us or the fact that I beat Seb earlier in the evening. You always enjoy winning, absolutely, and if you win against a good driver that’s even better. But win or lose I’ve had a really enjoyable weekend here, as ever.”
Martin Tomczyk (semi-finalist): “Today went really well. After Friday when we had just one lap with every car I didn’t know what to expect. But it went well and to beat Mattias Ekström in the rally car is unbelievable. It’s nice to sit in the different cars too – and I especially enjoyed my first real run in a rally car. It’s just pure fun and the lap time isn’t bad either. There are some really good drivers here and I really appreciate being here to race against these different competitors from all over the world.”
Sebastian Vettel: “There was a great vibe here, not only last night but also today. We had a good party last night, but that wasn't the problem today against Michael. On the first lap I was a bit behind, then I tried to make up for it and I made a few small mistakes. It's a shame I got knocked out, but that's the way it goes. Coming back here was very special for us and having fun was the most important thing this weekend.”
Romain Grosjean: “It was a pity to go out by such a tight margin in the group stages, but those are the rules. I thought I was through but I was half a second down in the play-off over fastest times. But the Race Of Champions is special. The world’s very best drivers are here and it’s a great show to see these guys driving all the cars to the limit. The ROC car is good and I was pleasantly surprised by the World Touring Racecar. It was the first time that I’ve driven a rally car too, so I really enjoyed my run in that. But the main thing is having fun every time I get in the car and to put on a show for the crowds in the stadium.”
Vitaly Petrov: “It was a pity that I didn’t progress further today but I still had a good weekend. It was an interesting feeling to beat Michael Schumacher in yesterday’s ROC Nations Cup. Some of the other drivers have raced here a lot already so they know what to do. I was a bit more prepared in the KTM X-Bow than in the World Touring Racecar, which is hard to drive because it’s so huge. But most of the cars were good and it was enjoyable getting used to them.”
Jan Kopecký: “I had a really nice race against Sébastien Ogier in the Skoda. I fell asleep at the start and lost a bit on the first lap, but didn’t make any mistakes at all on the second lap and I beat him by a tenth. Otherwise it was difficult for me. In the other cars I didn’t have so much confidence because the practice was only two laps. I raced against Mattias Ekström in an Audi so I knew it would be hard to beat him unless he made a mistake. But I’m happy to have been here because all the other drivers are really amazing – and always happy to talk about whatever you want.”
Filipe Albuquerque: “I love this event but today couldn’t have gone worse, really. There were high expectations on me after I won here last year but in the first race the car just died on me. From there unfortunately I couldn’t make my way back in the other heats. It shows it’s not easy to win the Race Of Champions but it remains a great event and at least I proved I could do it last year.”
Jenson Button: “I missed last year’s Race Of Champions because I had other commitments but it’s really good to be back. I may not have won but this is always a very special event with a good atmosphere. You’re racing against guys from your own formula plus others from around the world like motorbikes and off-road racing. You wouldn’t normally get to meet up with those guys. So we enjoy both the driving and the evenings. The facilities are fantastic here as well: the circuit is great, in a great arena.”
David Coulthard: “This event is all about the camaraderie between the drivers. It’s just really nice to compete. It’s only a two-lap race but the fact that you have the ROC Nations Cup first means you don’t want to let your team-mate down. Then you have the individual race and all the social events outside the cars. This wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for Fredrik Johnsson. He’s got a great way of engaging with people and pulling everyone in. Jenson’s just finished an incredibly long F1 season along with Michael and Sebastian, yet they’re quite happy to be here. If this was a promotion and it felt like you were working, no chance!”
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