Eighteen of the world's top drivers returned this past weekend to Düsseldorf's ESPRIT Arena to contest this year's 2011 Race of Champions. Up for grabs was glory for each driver's native land in the ROC Nation's Cup on Saturday, as well as individual glory and the title Champion of Champions in Sunday's elimination competition.
The races are held on the 1.2-kilometer ROC parallel track assembled within the confines of ESPRIT Arena, and this year's crop of vehicles with which to compete included the Audi R8 LMS, Skoda Fabia Super 2000, VW Scirocco, KTM X-Bow, RX150 rallycross buggy, ROC single- and two-seat buggies, and, according to RoC's website, a Chevrolet-powered NASCAR Car of Tomorrow race car.
Related Gallery2011 Race of Champions Recap
Unfortunately, Team USA, comprised of the ever-marketable Travis Pastrana and less-well-known motorcross and Rally Cross driver Brian Deegan, failed to make it out of the first round of the Nation's Cup competition on Saturday. They fared equally as poorly on their own as well, with neither amassing enough head-to-head wins on the ROC track to advance past Sunday's initial round-robin group stage.
If, however, you hail from either a Nordic or Germanic land, then you have all the reason in the world to be happy with how your drivers performed. Team Germany's Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, who combined have won nine Formula One World Championships including the last two years back-to-back for Vettel, drove off with the Nation's Cup in front of the hometown crowd. It was Team Germany's fifth time atop the ROC podium, and they had to go through Team Nordic's Tom Kristensen (record nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner) and rally racer Juho Hähnninen in the finals to do it.
Schumacher and Kristensen were again forces to be reckoned with in the next day's individual competition to crown the Champion of Champions, and despite reportedly giving those in attendance a thrilling show in the semi-final when they faced each other and finished less than two hundredths of a second apart, neither ended up on the top step of the podium. Kristensen advanced past Schumacher, who himself had to go through Vettel in the semi-finals, only to run into first-time participant Sébastien Ogier of France in the best-of-three Grand Final round.
Don't know who Sébiastien Ogier is? Neither did we, but apparently the Frenchman is an up-and-comer in World Rally Championship, having racked up six WRC wins and contended for the 2011 title. He's earned a small spot in history for having beaten perhaps the greatest Le Mans driver who ever lived. Ogier also eliminated last year's rookie champion, Filipe Albuquerque, as well as multi-time World Touring Car champion Andy Priaulx and DTM champ Martin Tomczyk.