Race of Champions
Esprit Arena, Dusseldorf
After the unsuccessful experiment of running it in Beijing in 2009, the Race of Champions switched back to Europe this year with a visit to the Esprit Arena in DOsseldort a football stadium with a handily retractable roof.
The move proved to be well timed as the event turned into a victory party for Sebastian Vette!, who had clinched the Fl World Championship just two weeks before. The Red Bull star contributed to the perfect result by hooking up with Michael Schumacher to win Saturday evening’s Nations Cup event, marking the fourth time in succession that the pair had triumphed for Germany.
Vettel actually lost a couple of his heats, so Schumacher did most of the hard work, ultimately beating Andy Priaulx in the final. Teamed with BTCC champion Jason Plato, Priaulx did a superb job for the GB team, winning all his races until he came up against the multiple World Champion.
Schumacher had the advantage of driving only KTMs and open-wheel buggies throughout, whereas Priaulx and others had to chop and change between Porsches, VWs, Audis and even a NASCAR stocker.
“It was a tough call for me to race in the buggy, which I hadn’t been in all night,” admitted the BMW driver. “But I beat Sebastien Loeb, I beat Veffel, so overall I had a fantastic time.”
If the team event seemed a little too predictable, the individual contest on Sunday proved that the format can spring surprises. The first was when Heikki Kovalainen received a concussion when he crashed his Audi R8 after a nudge with the wall broke its rear suspension. The Finn was still under doctors’ orders over a week later.
Then as the afternoon unfolded the unheralded Felipe Albuquerque fresh from the Italian GT series beat all comers. A former Red Bull protégé and sometime F1 tester the Portuguese driver didn’t put a foot wrong all day, ultimately trouncing multiple RoC winner Loeb in the final.
Unfortunately for the fans Veffel and Schumacher came up against each other early in the quarter finals, Seb just gaffing the edge. “You prefer to win, but I have no problem to lose against a friend,” Michael grinned afterwards.
Another noteworthy contest was a run-off between two men who share 11 World Championship titles, when Schumacher took on Alain Prost.
“The last time that happened was in 1993, so it was 17 years ago,” mused event debutant Prost. “It’s very rare that you can do that with such a long time difference. I knew he would beat me, but I was gaffing closer and closer, especially with the car that he preferred! Just for that, it was a good thing to come here.”
Lotus Sydney Tasman Reviva
Eastern Creek, New Zealand
Australia’s triple World Champion Sir Jack Brabham and design genius Ron Tauranac headed a stellar guest list of series returnees at the third Lotus Sydney Tasman Revival at Eastern Creek on November 26-28, marking the 50th anniversary of the first racing at nearby Warwick Farm.
Niel Allen, Bruce Allison, Kevin Bartlett, 1975 champion Warwick Brown, John Goss, John Harvey, Spencer Martin and Frank Matich joined a star-studded demo at the climax of the Historic Sports & Racing Car Association of New South Wales’ biannual event.
Armed with the ex-Hill Gold Leaf Team Lotus 49B R8, John Smith was unbeatable across the four-race Pre-1970 Tasman retrospective, although he made a show of it. After sluggish starts, he powered past Tasmanian tin-top ace John Bowe (Bra bha m-Cli max BT23), Chris Farrell (Brabham BT30) and 2008 victor Rob Hall, in Graham Adelman’s 1968 Ferrari 246 Dino, en route to the Chris Amon career celebration at Hampton Downs.
The F5000 era was relived too, although only 11 cars (five brought by Kiwis and one each from the UK and USA) was disappointing for the organisers, who attracted over 400 competitors, including a record eight from Japan, and a paddock full of sensational cars.
Aussies ruled the heats, with Andrew Robson (ex-Redman/Smith Lola-Chevrolet T330/332) fending off the home-built cars of Bryan Sala (in Elfin Heritage Centre guru Bill Hemming’s MR8C) and Aaron Lewis (Matich-Holden Repco A50).
American Dudley Cunningham was sidelined when Steve Ross (McRae GM]) tried to win race two at the first turn. His clash with Sefton Gibb (T332) entangled the similar cars of Stan Redmond and Cunningham. A mighty effort by Dudley’s crew chief and rivals let Brown demo his old warhorse.
Without treaded tyres, Robson and Lewis non-started Sunday’s finale, but in a display of bravado punctuated by three spins, 62-year-old Redmond took his Lola T332 to victory over Sala and Brit Greg Thornton (ex-Gethin Chevron B24). “That was exciting,” grinned the Kevin Bartlett Trophy winner.
A miscellany of cars populated the nine supporting fields. Behind young invitee Tom Tweedy’s F2 Lola-SCA T60, Brit David Methley (Lotus 18) showed Formula Junior rivals his class. Jamie Lamer (exHenton ‘Ca n-Am-ised’ Ra It-Hart RT2) blitzed the later sports car races featuring Terry Larson’s unique Porsche-built EBS Interserie car but Kiwi Russell Greer was denied early feature honours, despite negating a controversial 60sec jump-start penalty in the remarkable chain-driven 1959 Stanton-Corvette.