Stage set for 25th Race of Champions in Thailand

Sebastian Vettel competing at the 2011 Race of Champions in Germany

Sebastian Vettel competing at the 2011 Race of Champions in Germany

Australia will be watching the Race of Champions more intently than ever before this weekend when V8 Supercars star Jamie Whincup leads Australia’s assault on the event in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Rajamangala Stadium location marks just the second time in the ROC’s history that the ‘Champion of Champions’ battle will be held outside of Europe.

Originally run as a traditional rally stage, the event moved to its current parallel track format in 1989, but remained the sole domain of rallying’s elite before an infiltration of circuit racing stars over the last decade.

The 2012 field includes the reigning champions from Formula 1 (Sebastian Vettel), MotoGP (Jorge Lorenzo), IndyCar (Ryan Hunter-Reay) and V8 Supercars (Jamie Whincup), while legends such as Michael Schumacher, Tom Kristensen and Mick Doohan are also amongst the line-up.

The German combination of Vettel and Schumcher will start as hot favourites to win Saturday night’s Nations Cup competition having gone undefeated since they were first teamed together in 2007.

The Rajamangala Stadium ready for action

The Rajamangala Stadium ready for action

Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, who will spearhead Volkswagen’s attack on the World Rally Championship next year, enters Sunday night’s individual competition as the defending champion having beaten Kristensen in the 2011 final.

Whincup, who has been quick to downplay expectations in the lead-up to the event, finds himself in the same four-man group as Ogier – from which the top two will progress to the quarter finals.

Seven different vehicles will be utilised for this year’s competition, with Toyota’s GT86 production car joining the previously used Audi R8 LMS, Lamborghini Gallardo Super Tropheo, VW Scirocco, ROC buggy, KTM X-Bow and the NASCAR-style Euro Racecar in the line-up.

The event will be televised live in Australia for the first time via subscription channel Speed, while will be on the ground in Bangkok to cover all the action.

On-track activities kick-off on Friday with the running of the ROC Asia and ROC Thailand competitions that will determine the full final places in the field for the weekend.

See below for the list of competitors in their respective groups

Race Of Champions (Sunday December 16)

Group A
Sébastien OGIER, WRC star and reigning ROC ‘Champion of Champions’
Jamie WHINCUP, V8 Supercar Champion 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008
David COULTHARD, 13 Formula 1 grand prix victories
Benito GUERRA, Production World Rally Champion 2012

Group B
Tom KRISTENSEN, eight-time Le Mans 24-Hour race winner
Andy PRIAULX, three-time World Touring Car Champion
ROC Asia 1, top non-Thailand competitor from ROC Asia
ROC Thailand 1, winner of ROC Thailand

Group C
Sebastian VETTEL, Formula 1 World Champion 2012, 2011, 2010
Jorge LORENZO, MotoGP World Champion 2012, 2010
Mick DOOHAN, five-time 500cc MotoGP World Champion
ROC Thailand 2, runner-up from ROC Thailand

Group D
Michael SCHUMACHER, seven-time Formula 1 World Champion
Ryan HUNTER-REAY, IndyCar Series Champion 2012
ROC Asia 2, second-placed non-Thailand competitor from ROC Asia
Romain GROSJEAN, three Formula 1 podiums in 2012

ROC Nations Cup (Saturday December 15)

Group A
Team France (Sébastien OGIER & Romain GROSJEAN)
Team Great Britain (David COULTHARD & Andy PRIAULX)
Team Americas (Ryan HUNTER-REAY & Benito GUERRA)
Team All Stars (Tom KRISTENSEN & Jorge LORENZO)

Group B 

Team Germany (Michael SCHUMACHER & Sebastian VETTEL)
Team Thailand (The two finalists from ROC Thailand)
Team Australia (Mick DOOHAN & Jamie WHINCUP)
Team Asia (The leading ROC Asia team other than Thailand)

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