Champions finally meet
Michael Schumacher and Sebastien Loeb went head to head at the recent Race of Champions in Paris. Their three-race face-off on a purpose-built figure-of-eight track in the Stade de France is believed to have been the first showdown between the reigning Formula One and World Rally champions.
Although Jody Scheckter, Alan Jones and Keke Rosberg, and Björn Waldegård, Ari Vatanen, Stig Blomqvist and Hannu Mikkola all contested the Rallysprints held at Donington Park in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the current champions of both codes were never in the same place at the same time.
In Paris, contractual difficulties kept Schumacher out of the WRC Citroën and Peugeot on hand, so he and Loeb fought it out In 170bhp bike-engined buggies built specially for the occasion.
Schumacher won 2-1.
This battle was the highlight of an event that saw young Finnish racer Heikki Kovalainen, the reigning Dallara Nissan World Series champion, upstage the more established stars by winning the Race of Champions itself. The impressive Kovalainen was unbeaten aboard buggy, WRC car and Ferrari 360 Modena until his last race of the evening.
But his defeat on that occasion allowed France, represented by Loeb and Mercedes DTM ace Jean Alesi, to pip Finland to the national honours. Kovalainen’s team-mate was Peugeot WRC star Marcus Gronholm.