Race of Champions: Kristensen, Solberg (Team Nordic) win Nations Cup; Americans out in group stage

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Nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen and new FIA World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg captured the Race of Champions Nations Cup on the first day of ROC action from Bushy Park Circuit in Barbados.

Kristensen and Solberg, paired together as Team Nordic, defeated the Team Scotland group of former F1 pilot David Coulthard and current F1 reserve driver Susie Wolff, 2-1, in the final.

Kristensen beat Wolff in the first heat race, only for Coulthard to respond by knocking off Solberg. That set up a tie-breaker between Kristensen and Coulthard, which ended with the former winning as the latter went off at the final corner.

Tom Kristensen "My real last race was FIA WEC in Sao Paulo with Audi Sport. This is just fun, real fun actually. We had…

Posted by Race Of Champions on Saturday, December 13, 2014

The home team, Team Barbados, also had a strong Saturday as drivers Dane Skeete and Rhett Watson advanced out of the group stage and then pushed Team Scotland to a third race in the semifinals.

Additionally, the local boys won the ROC Caribbean tournament over driving teams from Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad & Tobago.

The U.S. was represented by Indy 500 champ Ryan Hunter-Reay and former NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Kurt Busch (Team USA) as well as jack of all trades Robby Gordon, who was paired with FIA World Touring Car champ Jose Maria Lopez of Argentina as Team Americas.

Unfortunately for the star-spangled trio, neither of their teams managed to escape the aforementioned group stage.

In Group A, Team Nordic’s four wins and Team France’s (F1’s Romain Grosjean and European F3 champ Esteban Ocon) three saw them through to the knockout rounds over Team Americas’ two wins, both from Gordon.

Hunter-Reay and Busch combined for three wins in Group B (two from RHR, one from Busch) to put them level with Team Barbados behind Team Scotland’s five wins. But the Barbadians grabbed the last advance spot over Team USA on fastest lap time.

With the Nations Cup decided, the main event awaits Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. As in the Nations Cup, the main event will begin with a round-robin group stage.

The top two drivers from each group will move on to the knockout rounds and compete to be called “Champion of Champions.” Here’s the round-robin draw:

Group A
Romain Grosjean (reigning ROC Champion of Champions)
Jamie Whincup
David Coulthard
Mick Doohan

Group B
Petter Solberg
Kurt Busch
Susie Wolff
Fastest Team Barbados driver from ROC Caribbean

Group C
Jose Maria Lopez
Robby Gordon
Fastest ROC Caribbean driver from other teams
Esteban Ocon

Group D
Tom Kristensen
Ryan Hunter-Reay
Jolyon Palmer
Pascal Wehrlein

A highlights show of this weekend’s events will air Thursday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Andretti Autosport picks James Hinchcliffe for last 3 races of season

Andretti Autosport James Hinchcliffe
Chris Owens/IndyCar
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James Hinchcliffe will finish the NTT IndyCar Series season for Andretti Autosport, replacing Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda.

The team made the announcement Friday afternoon that Hinchcliffe will return after racing for Andretti at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe, who also has worked as an IndyCar on NBC analyst and pit reporter, will race in the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s always unfortunate to have to change drivers this far into a season, but we have to look at finishing the year the best we can for the 26 team and start evaluating and looking at options for 2021,” team owner Michael Andretti said in a release. “James has an existing relationship with our team that we’d love to build on and it makes the most sense for him to step in for these last three races. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Hinchcliffe has a season-best finish of seventh in the Indy 500. He had been working on trying to put together a deal for next season after scrambling to secure a partial schedule this year when he lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP after 2020 with a year left on his deal.

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“I know, probably better than most, what Zach is feeling right now, and I have to say that he has handled everything about as class act as you can,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve known Zach as a teammate, before that as a colleague and even before that as a friend, and he is a guy that I respect in every way. I know he is a fighter and will fight back to where he wants to be.

“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team. I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”