Race of Champions hat trick for Ekstrom

Winners Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher of Team Germany celebrate on the podium with Jenson Button and Andy Priaulx of Team GB.

On his way to the 2009 Race of Champions title in Beijing, Mattias Ekstrom won his group over triple World Touring Car champion, Andy Priaulx, five-time Moto GP champion, Mick Doohan and multiple X-Games gold medallist, Travis Pastrana. He beat eight-time Le Mans 24 Hour winner, Tom Kristensen, in the quarter finals and newly crowned F1 World Champion, Jenson Button in the semi-final.

Ekstrom put his continuing success at The Race of Champions down to his upbringing: “I was born in the countryside in Sweden and drove lots of different cars as a boy, plus I’ve also had the pleasure of racing a lot of good touring cars, sportscars and rally cars. That is what makes the difference for me.

“I look across at Michael on the start line and I think ‘why should I beat him? His driving his spotless’.  A tenth of a second here and there isn’t a lot but sometimes it is enough and driving against Michael is always a pleasure. I always pretend to be thinking about whether to come to The Race of Champions or not but actually I’m never thinking about it.”

Schumacher said: “It has been a nice event, all in all, as always. It has the right mixture of seriousness behind the wheel and a relaxed atmosphere in which to meet some good guys.”

F1 World Champion Jenson Button reached the semi-finals, having won his group and beaten compatriot, Andy Priaulx, in the quarter finals. The man who was runner-up to Button in the F1 World Championship, Sebastian Vettel, also reached the penultimate round, losing to Schumacher.

Race of Champions – Round by Round
Round 1
Race 1 – Dong v Piccione – RX150
Clivio Piccione signals his intent by romping to victory over ROC China winner, Dong He Bin in the opening heat of The Race of Champions.
Race 2 – Foust v Pirro – RX150

Despite emerging triumphant in Monday’s ROC Beijing Challenge, sportscar ace Emanuele Pirro was beaten by American, Tanner Foust, who was leading a close race and sealed the victory when Pirro ran into mechanical problems.
Race 3 – Piccione v Foust – KTM X-Bow

Drifting champion Foust claimed his place in The Race of Champions proper by trouncing Piccione. Foust led from the green lights and pulled away throughout the race.
Group A
Race 1 – Kristensen v Button – ROC Car

Le Mans legend, Tom Kristensen, and new F1 champion, Jenson Button, ran a see-saw race in which they both held the lead at points, but it was Button who emerged victorious, crossing the finish line 2 seconds ahead of the Dane.
Race 2 – Foust v Chicherit – ROC Car

Foust continued his good form in The Race of Champions, running up a lead against Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit that was big enough by the end for the US driver to hold the lead to the line despite being on the longer, outside rail.
Race 3 – Foust v Button – Solution F

Button led Foust all the way in this encounter but the gutsy American hung on to his coat tails right up to the chequered flag to make it a near dead heat. Button took the win by a mere 0.05 seconds.
Race 4 – Chicherit v Kristensen – Solution F

Kristensen had the edge over Chicherit, who showed he was pushing just a little too hard when he slid wide on the last corner and slammed into the concrete wall hard enough to rip a wheel off his car. Kristensen took the win.
Race 5 – Chicherit v Button – KTM X-Bow

Button showed his class in beating French cross country rally champion, Chicherit, crossing the line almost 5 seconds ahead.
Race 6 – Foust v Kristensen – KTM X-Bow

Foust and Kristensen were almost inseparable until the American spun his KTM to a halt on the infield, gifting Kristensen the win.

Button and Kristensen through to quarter finals.
Group B
Race 1 – Ekstrom v Priaulx – ROC Car

Ex-DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom and ex-World Touring Car champion Andy Priaulx were close in the first lap, but the Swede took the initiative at half distance and charged home for the win.
Race 2 – Doohan v Pastrana – ROC Car

Ex-Moto GP legend Mick Doohan led multiple X Games gold medallist Travis Pastrana throughout the race, but not by much. A big slide at the final corner for Doohan allowed Pastrana to make a run for the line and they took the chequered flag almost simultaneously, but Doohan just had his nose in front for the victory.
Race 3 – Ekstrom v Pastrana – VW Scirocco Cup

Ekstrom made the quicker start, charging into the lead. Pastrana was pushing hard to keep up, which forced him into a mistake on the infield, running wide and clattering the barrier. This allowed Ekstrom to make the win safe.
Race 4 – Doohan v Priaulx – VW Scirocco Cup

Priaulx took his first win of the event but was given a hard time by Aussie, Doohan, who got to within 0.4s of the Briton at the flag. Doohan showed he was charging hard, scraping the wall on the outside of the final corner in his haste.
Race 5 – Ekstrom v Doohan – KTM X-Bow

Doohan takes the fight to the dominant Ekstrom but pushes too hard again, thumping the concrete wall at the last corner and bending his car’s front right suspension and retiring him from the race, allowing Ekstrom to take his third win from three heats.
Race 6 – Priaulx v Pastrana – KTM X-Bow

Priaulx was gifted the win when Pastrana spun into the infield at the first corner, beaching his KTM on the kerb.

Ekstrom and Priaulx through to quarter finals.
Group C
Race 1 – Vettel v Hirvonen – ROC Car

Hirvonen went too deep into the first corner on the second lap and lost time, allowing Vettel to grab the lead. Vettel was more erratic in his sliding around corners and got close to grazing the wall as he crossed the finish line, but still won by 2.2 seconds.
Race 2 – de Villiers v Reed – ROC Car

South African Giniel de Villiers and Australian, Chad Reed, had equally eventful opening laps, Reed being slowed by a major slide at the second corner while de Villiers clipped the wall on the infield. It was Reed who had a tidier second half of the race and took the victory.
Race 3 – Vettel v de Villiers – Ford WRC

Vettel seemed more comfortable at the wheel of the Ford Focus, with de Villiers losing time by running wide in the corners. Vettel was able to pull ahead and win by more than 2 seconds.
Race 4 – Hirvonen v Reed – ROC Car

Finn Mikko Hirvonen scored a big win over Reed, disappearing into the distance after Reed was slowed by a bouncing wide run across the kerb at turn two.
Race 5 – Reed v Vettel – RX150

ROC Nations Cup winner Sebastian Vettel scored an easy third win out of three races, after Reed clouted the wall at the last corner, with his car stuck in third gear.
Race 6 – de Villiers v Hirvonen – RX150

Hirvonen was always in control of the heat, scoring his second win of the group stages over Dakar Rally winner, de Villiers. The South African stayed in touch until the halfway point, after which Hirvonen pulled away to a 2.5 second margin at the flag.

Vettel and Hirvonen through to quarter finals.
Group D
Race 1 – Schumacher v Coulthard – ROC Car

Seven time F1 World Champion, Michael Schumacher and ex-F1 race-winner, David Coulthard, enjoyed a very close race, swapping the lead every time they came through to cross the finish line. DC got the better start but a single mistake, with a slide on the last corner, was the tiny different that allowed Schumacher to win his first outing.
Race 2 – Muller v Gronholm – ROC Car

Frenchman Yvan Muller took the win after triple World Rally Champion, Marcus Gronholm, pushed too hard in his ROC Car, suffering a quick spin mid-race.
Race 3 – Muller v Schumacher – ROC Car

Schumacher scored his second consecutive win, beating World Touring Car ace Muller by more than 2 seconds.
Race 4 – Coulthard v Gronholm – RX150

Coulthard got embroiled in another very close race, this time with Gronholm. Despite an early mistake by DC, he still led at the halfway point, albeit by a measly 0.1 seconds. DC held on to snatch the win over the Finn.
Race 5 – Gronholm v Schumacher – KTM X-Bow

Gronholm blasted away to a quicker start but ran into mechanical problems that slowed him down, allowing the German to win by 2.2 seconds.
Race 6 – Coulthard v Muller – KTM X-Bow

Muller was slow away at the green lights and, although he chased DC hard and closed up on him, Coulthard’s lead was too large and he took the victory.

Schumacher and Coulthard through to quarter finals.
Quarter Finals
Race 1 – Button v Priaulx – Ford WRC

Priaulx got bogged down at the start, allowing Button to charge into an early and substantial lead, which the touring car ace was unable to close down. Button won by 5 seconds.
Race 2 – Ekstrom v Kristensen – Solution F

Ekstrom looked dominant once again, leading at the halfway point. Kristensen was very much in touch, though, and crossed the line first on the third time around. But it was Ekstrom who clinched the win, finishing just 1.2 seconds ahead of the Dane.
Race 3 – Coulthard v Vettel – ROC Car

Both drivers were really pushing their cars to the limit, and a close race ensued, neither racer able to seize the initiative. Coulthard was marginally slower through the first corner on the final lap, which just gave the German the win.
Race 4 – Schumacher v Hirvonen – KTM X-Bow

Schumacher always looked in control of the race, pulling out a lead from the start and extending it to 1.9 seconds at the chequered flag.

Button, Ekstrom, Vettel and Schumacher through to semi-finals.
Semi Finals
Race 1 – Button v Ekstrom – Ford WRC

Ekstrom moved up a gear, with an eye on the big prize and, from the outset, was evidently pushing his rally car to the limit. He stormed into an early lead that Button would never really challenge, and the Swede booked his place in the final.
Race 2 – Vettel v Schumacher – KTM X-Bow

The two German drivers enjoyed a close race, with just 0.1 seconds separating them at half distance. Both were clearly keen to push hard, but that resulted in Vettel clipping the wall on the infield and breaking his right front suspension. That destroyed his steering and he went straight on at the next corner, forced to retire from the race.

Ekstrom and Schumacher through to the final.
Final
Race 1 – Ekstrom v Schumacher – ROC Car

Ekstrom led from lights to flag to seal victory in the first heat but it was close, with the DTM ace crossing the line just 0.2 seconds ahead of Schumacher.
Race 2 – Ekstrom v Schumacher – KTM X-Bow

A great start for Ekstrom put him in pole position to win The Race of Champions but Schumacher held on doggedly to stay in touch throughout. At the finish line, after a big effort by the Swede, he was half a second ahead of the German to clinch the crown.