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December 21, 2012

Champions Win on Michelin: Race of Champions 2012

BANGKOK, THAILAND—In motorsports, with its various series and variety of cars—some with fenders, some without, some that go on dirt, some on pavement, some with two wheels—crowing a “champion of champions” was once purely a matter of speculation. These days, there’s the Race of Champions—the brainchild of rally legend Michèle Mouton and events production company IMP.

At first, the idea was to bring together the best international rally drivers to compete in identical cars. Soon, racers in other genres came knocking, and since then, the ROC has hosted drivers from Formula 1, Le Mans, Touring Cars, Moto GP, and even NASCAR, all competing for the “Champion of Champions” title (a Nations Cup was added in 1999).

Founded in 1988, this year marks the 25th anniversary of ROC and is only the second time it has ventured outside Europe (the first being in 2009 at Beijing’s ‘Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium). Held at the Rajamangala Stadium at the heart of Bangkok, Thailand, the football pitch was transformed into an asphalt circuit that has two parallel tracks and a crossover bridge. Determining the winner is simple: two drivers compete and the fastest time advances. In the finals, the two remaining drivers race thrice, and the first to win two rounds, wins.

This year’s line-up of cars is both varied and spectacular. The roster comprises: Audi R8 LMS, Euro Race Car, KTM X-Bow, Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo, ROC Car (a purpose-built buggy), Toyota 86, and Volkswagen Scirocco. Equally exciting is the participants in this year’s ROC which include both veterans and first-timers: Sébastien Ogier (WRC, France), Jamie Whincup (V8 Supercar, Australia), David Coulthard (Formula 1, Great Britain), Benito Guerra (PWRC, Mexico), Tom Kristensen (Le Mans, Austria), Andy Priaulx (WTCC, Great Britain), Ho-Pin Tung (Formula 3, China), Nattavude Charoensukawattana (Super Car Thailand, Thailand), Sebastian Vettel (Formula 1, Germany), Jorge Lorenzo (Moto GP, Spain), Mick Doohan (Moto GP, Australia), Tin Sritrai (Asian Touring Car, Thailand), Michael Schumacher (Formula 1, Germany), Ryan Hunter-Reay (IndyCar, USA), Romain Grosjean (Formula 1, France), and Kazuya Ohshima (Formula 3, Japan).

However, regardless of driver or car, all participants have one thing in common: they all run with Michelin tires. A technical partner of ROC since its first outing, Michelin provides all the tire requirements of the ROC. With a racing pedigree built on championships and race wins in motorsports categories across the globe, it was only logical for ROC to team-up with the French tire maker. With its extensive pedigree in motorsports, coupled with a truly global presence, Michelin is able to provide tires that are both reliable and racy for the ROC’s wide range of vehicles.

Michelin considers its motorsports program as an extreme laboratory of sorts where it hopes to transfer lessons learned on the track to the road. In fact, the tires used at the Race of Champions are off-the-shelf customer competition tires. And true to form, although several cars saw mechanical problems throughout the three-day race, there was not one that was attributable to the Michelin tires. In fact, the Michelin tires outperformed the specifications set down by ROC (tires should last for a day of practice and one heat).

“With events like the Race of Champions, it showcases Michelin’s innovation and technology, which are the main reasons why we participate. Drivers don’t use tires simply for show. It’s the only contact between road and car, and drivers must develop a sense of trust. At the Race of Champions, drivers of different disciplines are able to celebrate the performance and safety of Michelin tires,” said Mr. Pascal Couasnon, Michelin Racing Division Director, who was personally on hand overseeing the Race of Champions.

This year’s Race of Champions saw Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel scoring Team Germany’s sixth Nations Cup victory by defeating Romain Grosjean and Sébastien Ogier of Team France. Team Germany swept the other countries with their perfect ten out of ten wins of the night. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean performed an upset by taking the Champion of Champions crown by overcoming Tom Kristensen. Grosjean proved his mettle by defeating Coulthard, Schumacher, and Vettel on his way to securing his first Race of Champions crown.

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