BY CHERYL TAY
German's greatest racing household names Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have proven that they make a formidable pair, having won their sixth consecutive Race of Champions (ROC) Nations Cup title at Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium last Saturday.
The ROC is a special annual event which sees racing stars all over the world from different race series come together and compete on the same purpose-built parallel track. Using a variety of vehicles such as the Audi R8 LMS, Volkswagen Scirocco, Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo, Toyota GT86, KTM X-Bow, ROC buggy and Euro Racecar, drivers are assigned the vehicles to use but each race will feature identical vehicles for fairness.
This year is the 25th ROC and the stellar driver line-up included Schumacher, Vettel, two-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, three-time World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx, eight-time Le Mans 24 Hour race winner Tom Kristensen and four-time V8 Supercar champion Jamie Whincup amongst others.
Representing Team Germany, Schumacher and Vettel spared no mercy for their competitors, winning 10 out of the 10 races in the ROC Nations Cup. First, they beat Team Australia, Team Thailand and Team India in the group stage before winning Team Australia again in the semi-final and triumphing over Team France in the final.
This is the sixth continuous ROC Nations Cup title that Schumacher and Vettel have won, but yet neither of them has ever won the individual ROC 'Champion of Champions' title.
16 drivers were lined up for the ROC battles on Sunday evening, with the 12 international star racers joined by Thailand's top two racers from the ROC Thailand — Nattavude Charoensukawattana and Tin Sritrai — and the top two racers from ROC Asia, China's Ho Pin Tung and Japan's Kazuya Oshima of the Toyota Team Gazoo Racing. Both ROC Thailand and ROC Asia were held on Friday evening.
Split into groups of four, Schumacher and Vettel topped their respective groups to make it to the top eight for the quarter-finals. While Schumacher managed to beat Australian Mick Doohan to advance to the semi-finals, Vettel's journey ended abruptly when he made a mistake and went into a barrier during his battle against Grosjean.
Joining Grosjean and Schumacher in the semi-finals were Kristensen and David Coulthard. Kristensen, 45, a seasoned ROC participant, beat Coulthard to make it to the final.
After beating Vettel, Grosjean won Schumacher to take the other seat in the final. Previously in the Nations Cup, Grosjean had lost to Schumacher, hence this was a satisfying achievement for the Frenchman.
Having made it to the ROC final last year, Kristensen was hoping to convert his 12th ROC attempt into a mega victory but he failed to do so after losing both rounds of the final with Grosjean.
It has been a rough year for Grosjean in Formula 1 — although he scored three podium finishes, he was heavily criticised for a string of crashes; especially for the major multi-car incident at Spa he caused which led Mark Webber to call him a 'first-lap nutcase'. Grosjean was penalised with a one-race ban following that incident and felt nothing but remorse and regret over his actions.
With all that behind him now, Grosjean is elated with his ROC victory, wrapping up the season on a good note at least. More good news followed when Lotus Renault confirmed on Monday that Grosjean will be retained in Formula 1 alongside Kimi Raikkonen.
Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.