ROC: Romain Grosjean crowned as 2012 Champion of Champions
By Mikko Jalonen
Romain Grosjean, whose Formula One future is in doubt for the past few months, won the 2012 Champion of Champions crown after two thrilling battles in the final against the eight-time Le Mans winner and the true ROC legend, Tom Kristensen, at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
Grosjean, after finishing as a runner-up on Saturday in the ROC Nations Cup representing Team France together with last year’s Champion of Champions Sebastien Ogier, was in a very impressive form on Sunday night at the Rajamangala Stadium. After progressing from the group stage behind Formula One legend Michael Schumacher, who was the only one able to beat Grosjean, the 26-year old Frenchman had his revenge on the German in the Nations Cup yesterday, defeating him on route to the final.
In the quarterfinal Grosjean knocked the defending Formula One champion, Red Bull Racing driver, Sebastian Vettel out of the competition in a KTM X-Bow after Vettel made a big mistake, he touched the barrier and broke the suspension of his KTM. In the semi-final it was time for Schumacher to say goodbye to his hopes of winning the “Champion of Champions“ title, a title Schumacher surprisingly has yet to win, as Grosjean was faster in the KTM X-Bow. For both Vettel and Schumacher losing to Grosjean were their only defeats in the whole ROC competition.
In the final, Grosjean had to face the eight-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen. On his route to the final, Kristensen came second in his group after had a shock defeat in an Audi R8 LMS from Chinese driver Ho Pin Tung. Therefore in the quarter-final, Kristensen had to face the defending champion Ogier, who indeed was the driver who had defeated Kristensen at the 2011 ROC final in Düsseldorf.
This time though, Kristensen got his revenge in an Audi R8 LMS, and as Scottish ace and ex-Formula One driver David Coulthard had already beaten Ho Pin Tung during a previous heat, the fight for the one of two places in the final was ready to take place; Kristensen defeated Coulthard in the Audi R8 LMS and advanced to the final.
Winner Romain Grosjean and second-placed Tom Kristensen on the ROC podium in Bangkok
In the first final heat Grosjean was faster than Kristensen with the ROC Buggy and as Grosjean had also defeated Kristensen in the second heat in the KTM X-Bow, he earned himself the victory and was crowned the 2012 Champion of Champions, just in his second attempt at the fierce and well-known ROC competition. Grosjean was especially delighted with his win and hopes to be back at the ROC in the future.
“That’s what I’d call a crazy day! It got a bit tough in the group stages but I managed to make it through. Then I had to face Sebastian Vettel in the quarter-final before Michael Schumacher in the semi-final — the two Germans who beat us in yesterday’s ROC Nations Cup final,” said Grosjean.
And the Frenchman added, “Then I had the final with Tom. We’ve had a good history at this event and I’ve raced him before so it was good to face him in the final. I got a bit of extra luck to be in the right car at the right time but it felt good. It’s been a tough end to the Formula One season but I finally got back on the podium yesterday, and now this! It’s great to get this win before I head off for a holiday. Thanks to everyone in Thailand because the welcome has been fantastic.”
For Kristensen the loss was bitter as the Dane has been hunting a win in this event for twelve years, he had already participated in his first ROC in the days that the event took place on Gran Canaria, and when the event was more known as a season-end for the rally drivers, but he had to admit Grosjean was better this time and he also wants to come back in the future.
“This was the 25th year of the race and Romain is a deserving winner,” said Kristensen. “He had a very good Sunday and I’m getting closer every year! It was a small gap between us in each of the heats and I made small mistakes but that’s the challenge of the Race Of Champions, to jump into different cars. Earlier I had a pretty fun run in the Audi against Ogier. I believe that was the fastest lap of the weekend so that’s what I’ll take away.”
And he added, “Even though I’m a bit more than 25 years old like Romain, it shows I’m still pretty fast if I’m in a good car. This has been the warmest Race Of Champions I have competed in — both literally and thanks to the people who welcomed us and enjoyed having us here. I’m still young so maybe one day I’ll get the chance to win it!”
For next year the event has been rumoured to return to Europe and in various number of motorsport news outlets, Great Britain and London has been named as a possible place where the event could take place. The last time that the event took place at the Wembley Stadium was in 2008. Then again, last year we saw that Great Britain, Czech Republic, Germany and other countries were given as possible hosts and Thailand came out as a surprise choice — so I would just await the news and would not get too hyped up if you’re a British fan.
Thanks to all for reading and I want to wish happy holidays for everybody!