Romain Grosjean ended an up and down 2012 by taking a surprise victory in Thailand at the Race of Champions, winning his way past both Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher to avenge his Team France’s defeat to the Germans a day earlier.
“That’s what I’d call a crazy day!” said Grosjean. “It got a bit tough in the group stages but I managed to make it through. Then I had to face Sebastian Vettel in the quarter-final before Michael Schumacher in the semi-final – the two Germans who beat us in yesterday’s ROC Nations Cup final. Then I had the final with Tom. We’ve had a good history at this event and I’ve raced him before so it was good to face him in the final. I got a bit of extra luck to be in the right car at the right time but it felt good.”
Grosjean’s evening in Bangkok got off to a shaky start, losing to Schumacher in his first race in the group stages, before wins against Indycar champion Ryan Hunter–Reay and Kazuya Ohshima booked his place in the quarter finals, progressing from the group alongside Schumacher as the seven time F1 champion continued his imperious ROC form taking three wins from three races.
Sebastien Vettel had an equally prefect record in his group stage races, picking up from the Nations’ Cup where the pairing had won every race to secure a sixth title, but winning his group stage put him against Grosjean in a sudden death – one race – quarter final.
After beating Vettel, whose Race of Champions weekend ended after a clash with the barriers, Grosjean went to beat Schumacher in a repeat of the first race of the Nations’ Cup final to face off against Tom Kristensen in a best of three final.
In two races – first in the familiar ROC buggy, then in the KTM X-Bow – Vettel recorded back to wins to take the title, and condemn Kristensen to the runners-up spot for a second consecutive year, the eight-time Le Mans winner having lost of Sebastien Ogier in last year’s final.
On his way to the final the Dane had had to face Ogier again, the pair meeting in the quarter final after Ogier had cruised through from Group A with a perfect three-from-three record only to lose to Kristensen.
Kristensen’s progression from the group stage had been a less straight forward affair, beating Thai driver Nattavude Charoensukawattana before losing to Ho–Pin Tung to set-up a winner take all shoot-out against Andy Priaulx, the Briton beating Tung, but losing out in one of the biggest shocks to the night to Charoensukawattana, the home driver’s win bringing the Rajamangala Stadium to life.
Ultimately, it was Kristensen who would progress, a mechanical failure send Priaulx crashing through barriers, narrowly missing swiping into his opponent in the outside lane for the corner. The win by default put Kristensen through behind Tung, who faced, and lost to, David Coulthard in the quarter-final.
Priaulx’s loss to Charoensukawattana was the first shock of the evening, and the first home win, but not the last.
Tin Sritrai, the second half of the Team Thailand representation in the draw, came within a whisker of racing his way out of the group. After beating Jorge Lorenzo, the MotoGP champion making an early exit from proceedings, Sritrai and Australian Mick Doohan faced off in another winner take all race, in this case joining Vettel in moving on from the group.
The crowd came alive again, Sritrai the first man across the line – though only by a fraction of a second. Celebrations were short-lived, however, having to give up the win, and the quarter-final spot, to Doohan after a penalty for clipping the barriers forming the chicane on the climb up the bridge.