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2009 Race Of Champions Preview

The 2009 Race of Champions will take place in Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium this week, the Nations' Cup taking place on Tuesday, with the individual competition a day later.

And the move from London's Wembley to Beijing is not the only change, with event being brought forward a month from its normal December date, with this year's event coming only days after the F1 finale and with three races remaining in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.

However, while NASCAR drivers such as Carl Edwards are obviously absent the 20 driver field still includes some of the best drivers from every realm of motorsport, with the field (according to the ROC's website) representing 116 F1 wins, 13 Le Mans 24 Hours title, 41 WRC victories, 15 FIA world titles and a Dakar Rally win.

While the track will maintain its familiar parallel, cross-over layout the layout of the competitions taking place on it is markedly different.

Gone is the knockout tournament for both the individual and nation's competition, in is a group stage. The Nations' Cup will see teams split into three groups, one of four pairs and two more of three, who will fight it out to give two semi-final line-ups, while the individual contest will see four groups of four drivers cut down to eight for the quarter final rounds.

Unfortunately the draw has not yet been made to find out who will be fighting who, but the drivers expected to take part have been confirmed.

Serial ROC competitor Michael Schumacher will again return as part of the two time champion German Nations' Cup team with Sebastian Vettel, while the Red Bull driver F1 rival Jenson Button will join forces with three time WTCC champion Andy Priaulx under guise of Team Autosport GB. Defending individual winner, and WRC champion, Sebastien Loeb is sadly absent, Dakar Rally racer Guerlain Chicherit taking his place alongside Yvan Muller in the French team.

Chicherit, who finished ninth in the 2009 Dakar car class is only one of a clutch of ROC debutants scheduled to take part. The Frenchman will be find himself pitted against reigning Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers. The Australian team will be a two-wheeled affair, with AMA 450 champion Chad Reed combining with motorcycle legend Mick Doohan. Team Monaco, who won through the South Europe regional finals, are also a team of newcomers, with the principality's A1GP driver Clivio Piccione and Emanuele Pirro.

The Nations' Cup will also see the debut of Team China, with the two drivers decided by a dedicated ROC China event. The event held earlier today (Monday) was won by former A1GP driver Ho-Pin Tung, with defeated finalist and polymath Han Han joining him in Team China.

The drivers will contend with the normal range of cars, with the ROC buggies returning in both single and two seat models, the KTM X-bow and Ford Focus WRC return and are joined by a racing version of the new VW Scirocco.

The Nations' Cup is scheduled to start at 8pm local time (Noon UK time) with the individual contest 24 hours later.

Complete list of drivers scheduled to compete:

Team Germany
Michael Schumacher – 7 time F1 champion, twice Nations' Cup winner
Sebastien Vettel – 2009 F1 championship runner-up, twice Nations' Cup winner

Team Autosport GB
Jenson Button – 2009 F1 World Champion
Andy Priaulx – Three time FIA World Touring Car Champion

Team Scandanavia
Tom Kristensen – Eight time Le Mans 24 Hours winner, 2005 Nations' Cup winner
Mattias Ekstrom – Double DTM champion, double Race of Champions winner, 2005 Nations' Cup winner

Team Finland
Mikko Hirvonen – 2009 WRC runner-up
Marcus Gronholm – Double WRC Champion, 2002 ROC winner, 2006 Nations' Cup winner

Team Australia
Chad Reed – 2009 AMA 450 Champion
Mick Doohan – Five time 500cc World Champion

Team France
Yvan Muller – Reigning FIA World Touring Car Champion
Guerlain Chicherit – Reigning FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies winner

Team All Stars
David Coulthard – 13 times F1 winner
Giniel de Villiers – 2009 Dakar Rally (car class) winner

Team USA
Tanner Foust – Twice American Formula Drift Champion, Three times X-Games medallist
Travis Pastrana – Four time American Rally Champion, 10 times X-Games medallist, 2006 Nations' Cup runner-up

Team Monaco
Clivio Piccione – A1GP Team Monaco driver
Emanuele Pirro – Five time Le Mans 24 Hours winner

Team China
Ho-Pin Tung – A1GP team China driver
Han Han – Professional Rally driver, author, blogger and singer.