Mattias Ekstrom has achieved a record-equaling fourth champion of champions crown after triumphing over Mick Schumacher in the final of the Race of Champions in Pite Havsbad.
World Rallycross champion Ekstrom had a comfortable first heat and won the second heat despite a fire within the car. Ekstrom dominated around the ice circuit as he extinguished the licks of fire, coming from the central console, with his hand as he changed gear.
Schumacher reached the final after a confident performance throughout the day, knocking out 2022 ROC runner-up Sebastian Vettel in the semi final.
A ROC favourite, Oliver Solberg, was knocked out in the quarter-finals after colliding with the wall over the bridge as he battled with his 2022 WRC team-mate, Thierry Neuville. The mistake led to Solberg’s first loss of the weekend and ultimately left him out of the competition as he was 11.989s down on Neuville.
The 2022 ETCR Champion Adrien Tambay faced the former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard in round 1, the winner of which would progress on to the round of 16. The pair kicked off the day racing in the Polaris RZR’s, with Coulthard easily coming out on top in the first heat. The second heat in the electric Zeroid X1, saw Coulthard start strong but spin into the snowbank, handing the fastest time to Tambay. The Frenchman progressed onto the round of 16, 8.143s ahead of Coulthard.
Meanwhile, Mick Schumacher came up against Arrow Mclaren IndyCar driver, Felix Rosenquist, Schumacher taking the first heat win with ease, over a second ahead of Rosenqvist. The second heat for the pair was in the Polaris RZR, Rosenqvist spun after taking too much of the snowbank, handing the win to Schumacher. The German progressed to the round of 16.
Round of 16
Mika Hakkinen, seeking redemption after being knocked out in the first round of the Nations Cup on Saturday, was facing Nations Cup finalist, Felipe Drougovich who started out strong in the Polaris as he won the first heat by over 1.5s. The pair took to the Cupra’s for the second heat. Drugovich dominated outperforming Hakkinen by 2.997s – allowing the 2022 Formula 2 champion to progress onto the next round
Tambay and Schumacher battled each other in the Cupra UrbanRebel, after progressing from round 1. Mercedes reserve driver Schumacher finished 1.178s ahead of Tambay in the first heat. The pair had their second run of the day in the Polaris in the second heat, Schumacher progressing onto the next round, 1.785s ahead.
Valtteri Bottas was the next of the Finns to take to the ice, this time against Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen, both in the Supercar Lites. Referred to as “the most rally [like] driver in F1” by Vettel earlier in the weekend, Bottas finished three seconds ahead of Kristensen, by over three seconds in the first heat. But the Finn was handed a five-second time-penalty for a jump start. For the second heat then, Bottas needed to win by over two seconds, against Kristensen. But, he was unable to do so bringing the Alfa Romeo F1 driver’s first ROC to an end.
Last year’s ROC runner-up, Vettel started strong in the Polaris against newly signed Andretti Autosport Indy NXT driver, Jamie Chadwick. The German driver finished ahead in the first heat by over 1.5s. The Supercar Lites was the machinery used for the second heat, Vettel once again easily finishing ahead of Chadwick.
This meant Vettel, Kristensen, Drugovich, Schumacher progressed onto the quarter-finals for the road racer category.
2022’s Champion of Champions, Sebastian Loeb had little practice on the Pite Havsbad track before the weekend after arriving late and being knocked out of the Nations Cup in the round of 16. He was up against Thierry Neuville, who had considerably more practice on the ice after making it to the final yesterday in Team All Stars. The pair had their first battle of the day in the top-level Rallycross car, the FC1-X. The speed was visibly much higher through the corners than the other vehicles used across the ROC weekend. Neuville was ahead but after having massive contact into the snow barrier in the final moments, it handed the heat win to Loeb. In the second heat Neuville knocked out Loeb by the smallest of margins, a meagre 0.040s.
Father and son duo Petter and Oliver Solberg went up against each other in the round of 16, in complete contrast to when they won the Nations Cup together for Team Norway. It was no surprise that after Oliver’s standout performance yesterday, he outperformed his father FIA World Rally and World Rallycross Champion, Petter. In the Cupra’s for the first heat, Oliver finished first ahead of his father, the two using every inch of the track available. The Solbergs were in the Polaris’ for the second heat, Oliver just beating his father as he struggled coming out of the final corner.
The two Americans, Tanner Foust and Tom Pastrana were both drawn to take on the Swedes Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekstrom. Foust was first to take on Kristofferson in the FC1-X. The Swede won with ease as Foust struggled in the snow. Ekstrom was able to breeze into the quarter final against Pastrana as the Swede took victory in both heats.
The 2022 and 2020 Formula 2 champions Drugovich and Schumacher faced each other in the first quarter-final of the afternoon. The pair battled in the Supercar Lites in the first heat, Schumacher winning with ease. In the second heat Schacher made a large mistake in the final moments handing the heat win to Drugovich. But Drugovich was still down on time to Schumacher, bringing his first weekend of racing in snow to an end.
Next up, Vettel took on Kristensen, the German driver won the first heat narrowly after a mistake late in the run. This time in the Polaris Vettel glided to victory in the second heat.
Meanwhile there was big upset as Oliver Solberg faced Neuville in the speedy FC1-X. Soberg made the biggest mistake of the day, as he collided with the wall over the bridge, the advertising hoarding attaching itself to the wheel of the FC1-X. The mistake meant that he was ten seconds down going into the second heat. By keeping it clean, Neuville progressed with ease onto the semi final, despite losing the second heat to Solberg.
Swedes Ekstrom and Kristofferson went head-to-head in the Zeroid’s. Both on the limit, colliding with the snowbanks. Ekstrom finished ahead by a slim 0.065 advantage in the first heat meaning it was all to play for in the second. The Polaris RZR provided a tight second heat, but again, it was Ekstrom who was victorious progressing into the semi final.
It was an all German affair in the first heat of the semi finals. Schumacher faced Vettel in the Supercar Lites. An especially strong first heat from Schumacher and Vettel exploring onto the opposite side of the track meant the younger German was up by ten seconds as he approached the second heat, winning the stage with ease.
Meanwhile, Neville faced Ekstrom with Neville losing out to Ekstrom by 0.038s in the first heat. It was all to play for in the second heat as they faced each other in the Supercar Lites. Ekstrom progressed onto the final with the slimmest of margins as Neuville battled with the snowbank in the final corner.
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