Race of Champions: Rene Rast powers Team Germany to victory
Team Germany’s Timo Bernhard and Rene Rast captured the Race of Champions’ Nations Cup by defeating Team Latin America’s Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya in the final matchup at the King Fahad International Stadium in Riyadh.
Rast, representing Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters secured the victory by defeating Castroneves in Ariel Atoms.
The tournament took place on a cool night in the Saudi Arabian capital and featured numerous motorsports stars teaming up to represent their country in head-to-head battles that included numerous cars — including the Atom, Vuhl 05 ROC Edition, Xtreme Pickup, Whelen NASCAR Euro, KTM X-Bow Comp R and the ROC Car — on a purpose-built parallel track featuring a unique crossover bridge.
In the first heat, Rast fended off the challenge of Colombia’s Montoya. Castroneves struck back by beating Bernhard in the second heat, but Rast was just too strong.
Team Saudi Arabia (Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ahmed Bin Khanen) thrilled their home fans in the Riyadh stadium by making it as far as the semifinals before they were beaten in straight heats by Team Germany.
The other semifinal featured an epic battle between many of the biggest names of global motorsports as Team Latin America took on Team Nordic (Mr. Le Mans Tom Kristensen and World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg). Montoya and Solberg took a win each before the Colombian won the decisive final heat.
The evening’s action began with the 11 teams — an all-time record entry for the ROC Nations Cup — split into three round-robin groups. On a night of matchups between global stars of world motorsports, many greats fell by the wayside at this early stage.
Team USA (IndyCar champions Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden) were one of the early casualties. Newgarden took two wins, but it wasn’t enough to see them through a very competitive group A. The other pairing knocked out was Team Mexico (Memo Rojas and Abraham Calderon) despite their single win.
Team Germany topped Group A with five wins while Team Latin America took four wins — including three out of three for Montoya — and they progressed as the best second-place team.
Group B also saw some huge names go out of the competition, including Team Great Britain, despite a win apiece for David Coulthard and Lando Norris. Team Nordic and Team Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson and Joel Eriksson both finished on four wins, but the Nordic pair qualified for the semifinals on countback of fastest times.
The revelations of the night were surely Team Simracing All Stars (Rudy van Buren and Enzo Bonito) for whom van Buren took two wins against the professional racers, but it wasn’t quite enough to help the gamers make it any further.
Group C was an all Middle East affair, and it was incredibly tense, with all three teams finishing with two wins. But it was Team Saudi Arabia who thrilled their home fans by going through on countback of fastest times. That meant Team UAE (Khaled Al Qubaisi and Khalid Al Qassimi) and Team Lebanon (Karl Massaad and Mansour Chebli) bade farewell to the competition.