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Ekstrom defeats Schumacher in Race of Champions
By Iwan Jones
Monday 30th January, 2023 - 11:35am
Mattias Ekstrom has triumphed over Mick Schumacher to seal his fourth Race of Champions crown.
Ekstrom defeated the 2020 Formula 2 title winner and Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 Reserve Driver by two heats to claim victory in the Grand Final on the snow and ice circuit in Pitea, Sweden.
The star-studded line-up for the Swedish event featured 18 drivers with experience in categories including Formula 1, Extreme E, IndyCar and the World Rally Championship.
Due to the location of the event, the draw saw international circuit racing drivers go up against each other, while those with rally experience faced off against their respective counterparts in the qualifying rounds for the final.
In his title-winning run, Ekstrom defeated Nitro Rallycross title winner Travis Pastrana in the Round of 16, his Nation Cup team-mate and 2021 Extreme E title winner Johan Kristoffersson in the Quarter Final, 17-time WRC event winner Thierry Neuville in the Semi Final, before he faced the younger Schumacher in the finale.
The Swede now sits level alongside a pair of French rally drivers in nine-time WRC title winner Sebastien Loeb and Didier Auriol as four-time Champion of Champions.
“The Race Of Champions has meant a lot to me in my career,” Ekstrom said.
“It’s very special to have four wins and even more special to do it in Sweden.”
It is the third instance that the 44-year-old has defeated a Schumacher to claim a Race of Champions, with Ekstrom besting Mick’s father, seven-time Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion Michael Schumacher in 2007 and 2009.
In acknowledging his victory, the Double DTM and FIA World Rallycross Champion paid tribute to both Schumachers.
“I won my first final at the Stade de France in Paris against Sebastien Loeb, then I had two finals with Michael Schumacher in London and Beijing, so to see Mick in the final was very emotional for me,” he added.
“This is even more special than winning; Michael’s always been one of the guys I admire most in the sport, for his dedication, hard work and talent – I only got to know Michael at the Race of Champions.
“We had many battles and I have only great memories with Michael from this event.
“I’m super proud because Mick also rode with me on Friday in the Dakar car and we had a nice time. Michael was always humble with me and I can see Mick is also very humble.
“Mick is such a huge talent and his time is ahead of him, so I look forward to more battles in the future.
“I know it won’t take long until I get beaten, but against Mick I would have no problem with finishing second.”
In his run to the final, the younger Schumacher accounted for eTouring Car World Cup Champion Adrien Tambay in the Round of 16, 2022 FIA Formula 2 title winner Felipe Drugovich in the Quarter Final, before defeating four-time Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion Sebastian Vettel in the Semi Final.
The Round of 16 saw several high-profile exits with Loeb, as well as 1998 and 1999 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion Mika Hakkinen and 10-time Formula 1 Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas knocked out of the tournament early on.
Ekstrom’s triumph in the Race of Champions, follows a Semi-Final appearance for Team Sweden in the Nations Cup that was claimed by Norway.
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