The annual Race of Champions (ROC) returns to Germany this weekend (27-28 November) for the first time in 21 years, and there are several exciting new additions to the event – both in terms of cars and drivers.

Taking place on the unique parallel track in Düsseldorf’s ESPRIT arena, the 2010 Race of Champions will feature some of the most successful racers from around the world, competing in two categories of event – ‘The Nations Cup’ and ‘Champion of Champions’.

Among the list of famous names taking part are Sébastian Loeb (seven-time World Rally Championship winner and three-time Race of Champions ‘Champion of Champions’), Andy Priaulx (three time WTCC champion), Jason Plato (double British Touring Car Championship winner), Alain Prost (four-time Formula 1 world champion) and the German pairing of seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher and the recently-crowned 2010 Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel.

There are also some exciting new cars available for the drivers to compete in, from Audi’s R8 LMS to Porsche’s 911 Carrera Cup and the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup. The Scirocco R-Cup race car marks the first time a vehicle powered by gas has competed in the event, its 271 bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder TSI engine runs on bio-CNG fuel which reduces CO2 emissions by as much as 80 per cent.

Even though the ROC is supposed to be an opportunity for drivers to let their hair down after a busy season, this year there’s a big red target painted on the helmet of 2010 F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel, and in practice this afternoon he was certainly pushing to the limit – and beyond – heading straight through a trackside barrier and into a gravel trap in the KTM X-Bow.

If you’d like to watch the competition (which is surely the point of this post!), then the sad news is that the ROC has become mainly a pay-per-view event. In recent years we have carried a live broadcast ourselves from the stadium, but this year the coverage is being hosted by who will charge you the modest sum of 4.99 EUR for the whole weekend. I’m sure that the main German TV channels will also carry the live broadcast but for the rest of us, it looks like we’ll be limited to an internet-only experience. Visit the Race of Champions website for more information.

Anyway, I’m sure it will still be a blast to watch, so to aid your enjoyment we’ve gathered together a short guide of what to expect.

Friday’s final practice session

After the final practice session, the second group of drivers held a press conference to give their thoughts on the weekend’s event. This is what they had to say:

Sebastian Vettel: “It has been quite a journey since Abu Dhabi. So far I am enjoying it a lot and I have another busy weekend here. It is nice for Michael and myself to be racing in front of our home crowd and it is special to have The Race of Champions in Germany. This is a different world compared to F1 but it’s lots of fun to compete against drivers from different areas of motorsport. We are here to enjoy ourselves but as soon as we put our helmets on we all go back to race mode and try to beat the guy next to us. In practice this evening I was pushing hard and just after the bridge the car went straight on – my eyes were turning right but my car wasn’t so I ended up in the gravel trap. If I do that tomorrow or Sunday it is not going to be great for me!”

Michael Schumacher: “This is a great opportunity for Sebastian and I to race in front of our home fans. The Race of Champions has been successful in other countries in the past and now, coming to Germany at a special time with Sebastian winning the world championship, it is the perfect way to celebrate the end of the season. It is a perfect set-up here and I think it will be a very special event. Of course, Sebastian and I will try to get some more silverware for Team Germany – that is a big motivation for us. We want to give the fans a good show; we have won the ROC Nations Cup three times already so naturally we hope for number four this weekend.”

Carl Edwards: “I am very excited to be here and hopefully we can do well for Team USA in the ROC Nations Cup, as well as for myself in The Race of Champions on Sunday. It’s an honour to be here and I am looking forward to it. I reached the semi-finals of The Race of Champions back in 2008 when I beat a certain guy called Schumacher in the quarter-finals – that was a big day for me. I really enjoyed that and I hope it happens again. Practice went well today so you never know.”

Mick Doohan: “I really enjoy The Race of Champions and I have been lucky enough that they keep inviting me back. I only race cars two times a year which is not a lot compared to the other guys here who are driving week in, week out. It is a real pleasure for me to be here competing with guys who are at the top of their game and I will try my best.”

Travis Pastrana: “The first time I ever really drove a WRC car was at The Race of Champions and I was up against Markus Grönholm. I was down a couple of seconds and tried to make it all up in one corner – it didn’t work because I ended up having my first big crash in a rally car! But I have had some more enjoyable moments and in 2006 I had a really good run to finish second in the ROC Nations Cup. Team Germany keeps beating everyone so with this event being in their home country I am really excited about beating those guys!”

Jason Plato: “It is great to be back here at The Race of Champions. It’s going to be fun and the trophy looks nice – I can certainly find a place for one like that at home! It is a big incentive to look at the drivers assembled here; they are the greatest in the world and it is really a pleasure for me to be alongside them. If Team GB can get to the same level as these legends it will be a big day for me.”

Tanner Foust: “This is my third Race of Champions and it’s amazing to come back again. I am looking forward to another shot at it. The trick to this event is to get all the cars to suit you. During your short practice sessions you don’t have a lot of time with each car so you need to remember exactly where the braking point is at each corner. Practice was tricky earlier because there isn’t much rubber down so it is quite slippery but that should change tomorrow.”

The Drivers

2010 marks the rookie appearances of Alain Prost, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Filipe Albuquerque and Alvaro Parente, with the field of contenders including 4 current 2010 season champions – Sebastian Vettel, Jason Plato, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Sébastien Loeb.

Travis Pastrana and Jason Plato discuss their practice laps at the end of Friday practice.
Michael Schumacher
Sebastian Vettel
Alain Prost
Sébastien Loeb
Mick Doohan
Tanner Foust
Heikki Kovalainen
Tom Kristensen
Andy Priaulx
Jason Plato
Travis Pastrana
Carl Edwards
Alvaro Parente
Filipe Albuquerque
Jeroen Bleekemolen
Bertrand Baguette

The Track

The 2010 track at Düsseldorf’s ESPRIT arena is the widest ROC track ever to have been created inside a stadium and took just over a week to build.

“At 7.5 metres wide, the Düsseldorf track is a metre wider than the circuit we had at Wembley,” said Track Designer and Race of Champions co-founder Michèle Mouton. “That extra width is important as the corners are more open. So it’s great news for the drivers, who will be able to push to even greater limits than before – and for the fans, who will get to see the spectacular results.”

The Cars

Look out for the most fantastic cars to ever appear in a Race of Champions event including; Audi R8 LMS, Porsche 911 Carrera Cup, VW Scirocco R-Cup, ROC Car, KTM X-Bow, FJ-Racecar, ROC 2-Seater, Solution F Prototype, RX 150.