RoC: Germany wins, no-one much surprised

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarTuesday, December 18th, 2007

 
 

It was at Wembley. There was a German team, and it included Michael Schumacher.

Nobody was therefore very surprised when the ‘retired’ F1 legend and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel wiped the floor with their English, French, Scandinavian, American and Scottish competitors in the Nations Cup race.

But, just for once, Schumacher didn’t have it all his own way.

Not only was F1 rookie Vettel the real star of the national final, but Schumacher also came runner-up to Matthias Ekstrom in the drivers’ face-off.

The German pairing cut a swathe through the field in the Nations Cup contest, defeating the USA and England to meet Finland for the title shoot-out.

That country, ably represented by Heikki Kovalainen and Marcus Gronholm, had seen off Scandinavian and Norwegian teams in order to compete.

Schumacher started out by stalling his Fiat rally car on the line, only to see Kovalainen complete the first section of the circuit, come through the crossover and end up right behind him.

The two battled for track position and Schumi just kept the upper hand until the straight – when Kovalainen was able to pass him easily and take the first heat.

Next Vettel squared up to Gronholm on his own turf – a Ford WRC. The young German driver faced down his more experienced opponent, utilising a slight error on the last corner to snatch an unexpected win.

The decider was fought out in ROC open-wheel buggies between Vettel and Kovalainen. There was little to separate the two F1 stars until almost the final corner when Kovalainen touched the wall.

Again Vettel was able to utilise a mistake by his opponent to nail down an impressive victory and both he and Schumacher celebrated exuberantly.

Speaking after the event, Michael Schumacher said: “In the first heat of the final I just stalled the car and that was it.

“Then I was waiting for Heikki to come back round so at least we could have some fun. I knew I could rely on Sebastian!

“Actually it turned out really good; the two young ones could fight whilst the two retired drivers could relax.

“There weren’t any balls or any goals so it was a little bit easy for us to win at Wembley today.”

Vettel’s reaction was pithy. “I didn’t expect that,” he said, also paying tribute to “a strong team-mate.”

Scotland, represented by David Coulthard and Alister McRae, brother of Colin, had been knocked out by England in the quarter-finals.

Facing Jensen Button in a Fiat Grand Punto rally car, Coulthard lost ground in the final section and Button took the win without breaking into a sweat.

His team-mate Andy Priaulx also saw off Alister McRae in a race featuring Aston Martin N24s.

The Champion of Champions race was won by last year’s victor, Sweden’s Mattias Ekstrom, the DTM driver who found himself facing Michael Schumacher in the final for the second year running.

A fierce battle in the three-heat contest, saw the F1 legend spin his tin-top SolutionF car in the last heat, leaving Ekstrom the clear victor.

He had previously insisted that the cars were swapped over, a tactic that did not unsettle Ekstrom even slightly.

David Coulthard made it as far as the quarter-finals, where he was knocked out by Red Bull colleague Sebastien Bourdais, while Jenson Button’s Champion of Champions race was ended by Michael Schumacher at the same stage.

A minute’s silence was observed in the stadium in memory of Colin McRae, who had been due to partner Coulthard for Scotland. His brother Alister did a lap of honour in Colin’s Subaru 555 car.

See the full results for both races here >>

RoC official video of Champion of Champions race:

RoC official video of Nations Cup final:

The Mirror’s Mike Walters reports from the passenger seat of Sebastien Bourdais’ car (and proves he can’t spell Subaru, but maybe he was still shaken up) >>

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