Sebastian Vettel defeated Formula One legend and countryman Michael Schumacher and debutant Filipe Albuquerque celebrated a shock final victory over Sébastien Loeb in a Race of Champions to remember in Düsseldorf.
Vettel joined forces with Schumacher to deliver a home win for Germany in the Nations Cup on Saturday before the focus switched to the search for individual glory.
The Race of Champions' main event pitted 16 of the biggest names in motor sport against each other in head-to-head combat in a variety of different cars.
Albuquerque was the star of the show as the Portuguese driver, who competed in the Italian GT Championship for Audi, put some of the sport's biggest names in the shade.
Defeating new Formula One World Champion Vettel in the semi-finals, Albuquerque advanced to the final to face strong favourite Sébastien Loeb, the seven-time WRC Champion and three-time Champion of Champions!
Loeb had earlier eliminated Travis Pastrana's conquerer Tom Kristensen but the Frenchman was denied a record-equalling fourth title by Albuquerque who secured a dramatic 2-1 win...
Here what the main drivers had to say afterwards:
Filipe Albuquerque: “Today was my day. Everything went so well and I made no mistakes. Since the beginning I was up against such good drivers - I had to beat Sebastian Vettel twice and in the final, wow, Sébastien was really on it. I just drove my race and when I won the first one I was really happy. In the second race I made a small mistake and straightaway he was there and won - a little mistake can cause you to lose everything in this competition. But in the deciding race I was nice and smooth with no mistakes. I can't believe it - it's the first time I am here and I have won - I could not ask for more. To win against great names, including Vettel in Germany when he has just won the world championship, is just fantastic.”
Sébastien Loeb: “It was a really good fight but Filipe was very strong. I drove some good races and got to the final after some interesting fights; I gave everything. This morning I wasn't so confident after what happened yesterday in the ROC Nations Cup when I was beaten by Andy Priaulx but today went much better. I won all my races except for the one that mattered most, the final. But I am sure Filipe will be back again next year to defend his title and I'd like to be back so I hope we can fight again!”
Sebastian Vettel: “It would have been interesting to have the current Formula 1 and World Rally champions together in the final but it wasn't meant to be. That's how it goes, Filipe drove a good race. With races coming so fast and just one race for the quarter and semi-finals, sometimes it works for you and sometimes it doesn't. In the quarter-final against Michael it worked but in the semi I pushed too hard into the first corner and lost too much time. The race against Michael was fun and it was very tight after one lap. What happened last year in the semi-final went through my head and I was thinking ‘not again'. That time I shunted the car but this year I managed to get it to the line first so it was nice to pay him back.”
Michael Schumacher: “The problem against Sebastian was that after the first lap I was ahead and I was probably too cautious. I was too careful and he got to the line first. But it's been really nice to be here with all these talented guys. On the one hand it is a competitive event but also it is a bit more relaxed and we have the chance to catch up with people we otherwise don't get to see, so I have enjoyed the weekend. I'm also happy Heikki and his girlfriend came out of his accident okay.”
Kovalainen was competing against Loeb in the very first heat of the annual end-of-season extravaganza when he lost control of his Audi R8 LMS sportscar. The Lotus Racing ace was momentarily knocked unconscious but thankfully did not sustain any lasting injury.
Heikki Kovalainen: “I am fine luckily, no injuries, and also my girlfriend who was my passenger is fine. It was a major shunt and it started from the touch of the wall just before the finish line. I tried to use every inch of the circuit and I just kissed the wall. Then I was a passenger as I hit the wall at the first corner. It was a decent shunt.”
Alain Prost: “It was a slippery track surface on my second race after some fluid was dropped on the track and that made a big difference, particularly on the last corner and infield. But it was okay, just less grip, no big problem. I have enjoyed The Race of Champions more and more over the weekend and it's a shame I didn't go further - I would like to have another go! I am getting used to the cars; it is not easy but I really started to enjoy it.”
Travis Pastrana: “In my first race the car stalled, I have no idea why, so I had no chance. I just choked on the last bend of my race against Tom Kristensen, my second race. I took it a bit too easy on the last lap and then pushed too hard on the last turn. Tom's a great driver and I got knocked out but that's the way it goes.”
Tom Kristensen: “Today was not too bad after yesterday didn't go so well for Team Nordic in the ROC Nations Cup. The atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic and it's never easy to race against Sébastien Loeb. We do our best when we are in the cars but we also have a lot of fun and I am pleased my Team Nordic team-mate Heikki is fine."
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