Not content with a fifth WRC crown, Sébastien Loeb beat a star line-up to win his third Race of Champions at Wembley
By Ed Foster
Stunt riders and drivers, Formula 1, WRC, NASCAR, touring and sports car stars – the 2008 Race of Champions was never going to be a dull night. After 24 hours of constant rain, the twisty asphalt track inside Wembley Stadium was borderline lethal – something that David Coulthard tried hard to prove all night by crashing numerous times in KTM X-Bows and even his old Red Bull F1 car.
Due to the lack of grip, Olympic cycling triple gold medallist Chris Hoy couldn’t go head to head with Lewis Hamilton in a much-hyped bike versus car match. So Lewis made do with lapping the track in a road-going McLaren SLR, with Hoy as passenger, and in his McLaren-Mercedes.
To open proceedings various boxers were given a chance to race in the new Fiat Abarth 500 Assetto Corse. What followed was utter chaos and brilliant entertainment. David ‘the Haymaker’ Haye went straight on at the first corner before convincingly writing off his car at the end of the lap, while Amir Khan did the same in the next heat. After just five minutes, the organisers were already two cars down.
In the competition itself Team Scandinavia (with 2006/07 Champion of Champions Mattias Ekström and eight-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen) met Team Germany (Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel) to decide the Nations Cup. The 2008 Italian GP winner lost out to Ekström in his heat, so it was left to Schumacher to beat the DTM driver, which he did in customary smooth style in the RoC buggy. The German didn’t do so well in the individual drivers’ competition, however. NASCAR driver Carl Edwards beat the seven-time F1 World Champion to rapturous applause in the quarter finals. “The Abarths just don’t suit my style,” reckoned Schumacher after his early exit.
Other ‘moments’ included World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb going straight on at the first corner, under the barrier and out the other side. He managed to claw back Yvan Muller’s lead to seal his place in the quarters. Stunt driver and professional drifter Tanner Foust won over the crowd after sliding his car round the track, and beating Jenson Button in the process. Andy Priaulx produced a great effort to beat Ekström in the quarters, before losing out to eventual Champion of Champions Loeb.
Following a premature end to his F1 career in Brazil, Coulthard had a great night, making the final and then narrowly losing out to the unstoppable Loeb. The Scot got a loud cheer when he spoke about his new role in the BBC’s F1 team this year. “The only problem is that I’m not allowed to swear on the BBC,” he said, “so I’m probably ****ed.”
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