Record-breaking skydiver Baumgartner to contest Race of Champions (VIDEO)

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After jumping from the edge of space and breaking the sound barrier, Felix Baumgartner is set for his next big challenge: Taking on the world’s top drivers.

Baumgartner, whose 24-mile descent last fall as part of the “Red Bull Stratos” project left the world spellbound, has announced that he will be part of the Dec. 14-15 Race of Champions in Bangkok, Thailand.

The 44-year-old recently raced in a Volkswagen Scirocco Cup series event at Germany’s Hockenheim track, which was part of the undercard for the DTM series (you can see a bit of his work in the Scirocco on the video below).

In a press release, Baumgartner said that he’s always been interested in motorsport and has previously practiced in rally driving with a friend.

“Of course I’m at a very medium level, but I’m used to speed, picking things up fast and I’m not scared to compete against the best,” he said.

Additionally, he believes that the Race of Champions’ concept can be good for him, since there isn’t much time for competitors to practice before having to hop in the car and race. The RoC sticks drivers from multiple racing disciplines in identical cars and has them go head-to-head.

“Of course everyone is at the top of their game, so I’m the one with the least amount of pressure this time,” he said. “They all want to show they’re the best racing driver in the world, whereas I’m a skydiver…

“So no one will be expecting very much from me and as long as I don’t damage the car and I do a couple of cool laps, everybody’s going to say: ‘Hey, he’s not as bad as we thought he would be!’ I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot from it. The more I can learn, the better.”

Baumgartner will be facing tough competition in Bangkok, as racing luminaries such as seven-time F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher, nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Tom Kristiansen, 2013 World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier, and V8 Supercars star Jamie Whincup are among those set to compete in this year’s running.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

Photo: Getty Images
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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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