LONDON – Sebastian Vettel has won his first individual Race of Champions title after beating Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen 2-0 in the final at London’s former Olympic Stadium.
Vettel battled past Petter Solberg, Nico Hulkenberg and David Coulthard before winning the final, adding the individual trophy to his six Nations Cup titles.
IndyCar racer Ryan-Hunter Reay was the first winner of the day in London, easing past Nations Cup teammate Jose Maria Lopez 2-0. However, he was knocked out in the last 16 by Andy Priaulx, who had also claimed the scalp of DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein earlier in the day en route to the quarter-finals.
ROC Factor winner Bradley Philpot caused an upset in the first round by dumping out five-time MotoGP champion Mick Doohan. Although his fairytale story ended at the next stage when he lost 2-0 to Alex Buncombe, making it so far nevertheless marked a major achievement for the racing instructor from Southampton, England.
Susie Wolff bid farewell to competitive motorsport after she lost 2-0 to defending champion David Coulthard in the last 16, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd after finishing her race. She was joined on the sidelines by F1 drivers Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean and Jenson Button who lost at the same stage to Nico Hulkenberg, Jason Plato and Felipe Massa respectively.
Sebastian Vettel’s hopes of winning a maiden Race of Champions individual title started in good fashion as he defeated Petter Solberg 2-0. Solberg’s teammate Tom Kristensen kept the flag flying for Team Nordic though as he defeated Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr. 2-0 to make the last eight.
Vettel faced off against Nations Cup teammate Hulkenberg in the first quarter-final, making it through 2-0. He was drawn up against Coulthard in the last four after the Scot beat Massa 2-0, but was taken to a decider in a tense fight to reach the final. A jump start saw Coulthard receive a five-second penalty, but Vettel managed to win with ease regardless, taking him into his maiden individual Race of Champions final.
In the bottom half of the draw, Saturday’s Nations Cup winners saw their hopes of following this up with individual success end as Plato lost 2-0 to Kristensen, while Priaulx – widely tipped as the man to beat – was dumped out by Buncombe in a decider.
Experience shone through in the battle of the endurance racers as Kristensen beat Buncombe 2-0 in the second semi-final, setting up a final showdown with Vettel. Buncombe may have fallen short, but it nevertheless marked an impressive Race of Champions debut for the Briton.
A good start for Vettel in the first heat set him up to edge out Kristensen by 0.5 seconds in the Radicals, putting him within one win of the title. An issue with Kristensen’s ROC buggy for the second heat forced the drivers to switch to the X-Bows, and after a 20 minute wait, the drivers lined up for the second heat.
Both made a clean getaway, but a mistake from Kristensen at the first corner saw him hit the barrier. Although he was able to continue, the time lost as not recoverable, allowing Vettel to take a second win and clinch his first individual Race of Champions title.
“Of course I’m very happy and honored to win, but that took a while!” Vettel said after the final. “A lot of world class racing drivers have won this trophy. I’ve tried to win this many times and failed many times but finally I’ve succeeded.
“What the Race Of Champions gives us is a lot of joy. When we were kids starting to race, we did it for pure joy and this sort of event is a good reminder of that. When you close the visor, ultimately victory is still what drives you.
“But I’ve tried to win this so many times, today was more like a surprise. We all know this format is very difficult because no one gets much time in the cars so you need to find your rhythm quickly.
“Today I had the feeling I found it straightaway. It was very cold but it was a great atmosphere so thank you very much to everyone for coming to watch.”