He’s still got it: Ex-F1 star David Coulthard wins 2014 Race of Champions

5 Comments

The eighth time was the charm for David Coulthard.

“DC,” the 13-time Formula One Grand Prix winner, defeated Mercedes F1 reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein in the final of the 2014 Race of Champions in Barbados to become “Champion of Champions” in his eighth ROC appearance.

Meanwhile, the ROC’s three U.S. drivers – NASCAR’s Kurt Busch, IndyCar’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Robby Gordon – all bowed out in the quarterfinal round.

You can watch a one-hour highlights show of this weekend’s ROC on Thursday night, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Prior to today, Coulthard’s best ROC finish was a runner-up result to rallying legend Sebastien Loeb in the 2008 edition in London.

“I’m retired, but it’s lovely to get another trophy,” said Coulthard, who then proceeded to praise Wehrlein for his efforts.

“I think everyone here recognizes that we have a star here for the future,” Coulthard said of Wehrlein. “He’s already signed up with Mercedes’ Formula One team as a reserve driver, he’s winning races in DTM…Motorsport is in good health.”

Today’s best-of-3 final between Coulthard and Wehrlein started in the KTM X-Bow. Coulthard drew a warning for touching a barrier on the opening lap, but ran a clean second lap around the course and beat Wehrlein to the stripe by 1.4 seconds.

That led to Race 2 in the Ariel Atom Cup car. The race tightened up considerably in the second lap before Wehrlein put two wheels off-course in the final corner, allowing Coulthard to pull away and earn the title-clinching win.

“It was so much fun but at the end, David was really quick. I couldn’t beat him,” Wehrlein said of his final round. “For me, it’s a bit tough to drive a manual shift car and brake with the right foot, the clutch and everything. I was struggling a bit with that.”

As for the Americans, their days started with lots of promise but ended abruptly in the quarterfinals.

All three men swept their three respective heat races in the group stage to advance to the knockout rounds. But in the quarterfinals, they all went down: Busch to V8 Supercar champ Jamie Whincup in the Audi R8 LMS, Gordon to Wehrlein in the ROC Car, and Hunter-Reay to European F3 champ Esteban Ocon in the X-Bow.

Afterwards, Gordon said he thought Wehrlein should have been given a time penalty in their match for hitting a barrier.

“Obviously, he’s a very capable driver but he did clip the barrier and that should be [a penalty of] five seconds,” Gordon said. “[But] the reality is, he was fast. He was fast even with clipping the barrier, so it is what it is.”

In a later interview on the streaming broadcast, Gordon indicated that he also had issues with second gear being broken on his ROC Car.

Busch dubbed the quarterfinals as the “American eliminator round,” perhaps a reference to the last cut in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in his own series.

“I thought we had a better shot with us three [Americans] in it, and none of us got through that round,” said Busch.

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
0 Comments

Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”