Priaulx, Plato win maiden Race of Champions Nations Cup for England

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LONDON – England has won its first Race of Champions Nations Cup on home soil after touring car drivers Andy Priaulx and Jason Plato defeated Formula 1 stars Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg 2-1 in the final.

Priaulx and Plato fought all the way through from the first round to lift the trophy, delighting 16,000 home fans on a cold night at the former Olympic Stadium in London.

The Race of Champions pits drivers from a number of different championships up against each other in a series of challenges, using cars such as the Mercedes AMG GT, a Euro NASCAR and KTM X-Bows.

The opening preliminary round saw Plato and Priaulx in Team England 1 knock out Team Brazil’s Felipe Massa and Nelson Piquet Jr., while Team Young Stars of Jolyon Palmer and Pascal Wehrlein also made it through to the quarter-finals after beating Team All-Stars in a decider.

In the first quarter-final, IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay defeated World RX champion Petter Solberg for Team Americas, but was edged out by just one-tenth of a second in the decider to nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, sending Team Americas out at the hands of Team Nordic 2-1 following Jose Maria Lopez’s loss.

Former Red Bull teammates Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo renewed their rivalry when Team Germany faced Team Australia, with Vettel taking the bragging rights by half a second. Nico Hulkenberg followed Vettel’s lead, beating motorcycle racing legend Mick Doohan to send Germany into the semi-finals.

Not wishing to be outdone by the first England team, 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button and Blancpain GT driver Alex Buncombe beat David Coulthard and Susie Wolff of Team Scotland 2-0. Button’s victory over Coulthard was by just 0.005 seconds, but was enough to take Team England 2 through.

The final quarter-final pitted the two round one-winning teams up against each other, with Team England 1 winning in a decider after Priaulx edged out Palmer by just two-tenths of a second, setting up an all-English semi-final.

Defending Nations Cup champions Team Nordic’s title defence ended in the semi-finals as Vettel and Hulkenberg both won their races for Team Germany, defeating Kristensen and Solberg to move into the final. They were joined by the touring car duo of Plato and Priaulx, with the latter winning the decider.

In the first final shoot-out, Priaulx produced two perfect laps to beat Vettel and take England 1-0 up, only for a mistake by Plato in the second heat to allow Hulkenberg to level the score, taking the Race of Champions Nations Cup to a decider.

Priaulx once again was on form, eking out a lead over Hulkenberg in the first lap despite clouting the first kerb. He managed to extend this on the final tour of the course, giving him a one-second margin of victory to secure the Nations Cup for England.

“Tonight it all just hooked up,” Priaulx said. “Germany have won it a few times so it’s nice to have a turn – and nice for me to win a race for once!

“I’ve been to the ROC Nations Cup final three times so to do the job is great. This competition is tough and it gets tougher every year so you have to be on your A-game here because every race is like a qualifying session. It’s so easy to make mistakes but I’m really chuffed.

“Thanks to Fredrik Johnsson and all the guys at ROC for bringing us here. It’s brilliant to get the chance to race in front of our home crowd in London – what more could we ask?”

Vettel had been chasing a seventh Nations Cup title in London, but was gracious in defeat.

“It hurts – a lot – but Andy drove fantastically tonight, so well done,” Vettel said. “They deserved to win and it’s especially nice in front of your home crowd. If you’re in the final you want to win but someone has to lose and unfortunately it was us today.

“We tried everything but it was their day so I’m also very happy for them. I had a lot of fun anyway and I’m looking forward to tonight. The nice thing about this event is that it’s an opportunity for us to hang out with other drivers and a lot of them have become friends over the years. So thanks to everyone for coming out, it’s very cold but a great night.”

Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list; Musquin remains out

Shimoda injured
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Bad news continues to come out of the Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki team as they announced Jo Shimoda injured his shoulder in a practice session and will not mount up when the Monster Energy Supercross 250 East division opens in Houston, Texas on February 4. A timetable has not been given for Shimoda’s return, but a press release from the team references multiple weeks.

“I’m doing my best to focus forward on my return to racing,” said Shimoda in the release. “Our goal was to compete for the 250 Supercross Eastern Regional Championship and I know we had been doing the right work to make that happen. Unfortunately, this crash will cause me to miss the start of the season, but I still aim to be back on the track racing for wins before the end of Supercross.”

Shimoda is joined on the sidelines by teammates Seth Hammaker and Austin Forkner, who also suffered injuries in recent weeks.

The news of Hammaker’s sidelining came just two days ago. His wrist injury is sufficient to require surgery, so he too will miss multiple weeks. Hammaker was scheduled to compete in the 250 East division alongside Shimoda.

Forkner was involved in a Lap 1 crash in the 250 West season opener at Anaheim. Multiple injuries, including an ACL tear, will sideline him for the remainder of the season. He described the injury and its aftermath on Instagram.

Forkner will be relieved by Carson Mumford, but not before that rider’s wrist has healed sufficiently. He is scheduled to debut with Kawasaki in Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 Supercross race on February 18.

Shimoda finished fourth in the 2022 Supercross 250 West division and was second in 2021 points in 250 East. In 2021, Shimoda won his first Supercross race at Salt Lake City. Last year, he scored one podium and six top-fives in nine starts.

Shimoda finished second in last year’s outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, where he added two more SuperMotocross wins including the Unadilla Nationals that kicked off a four-race streak of first- or second-place results.

Kawasaki is not the only team facing injury. Red Bull KTM initially reported Marvin Musquin would be out for the San Diego round with a wrist injury and “maybe more”. This week it was announced he will miss this week’s Triple Crown race in Anaheim and “at least the next several rounds.”