After one win from each team in the Race of Champions‘ Nations Cup final, it was René Rast who secured victory for Team Germany at the King Fahd International Stadium. Partnering with fellow sportscar ace, Timo Bernhard, the pair eventually defeated Team Latin America.
The result sees Germany take their eighth Nations Cup victory, extending their lead as the most successful to date. It does however, mark the teams first success without Sebastian Vettel.
Both Finale teams had been present in Group A, where they were placed alongside Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay of Team USA and Mexican representative Abraham Calderon, neither would progress. Each driver was given three heats, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Bernhard winning all their encounters.
Two wins from three for Rast saw five for Germany and automatic qualification, while three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves could only win once, leaving Latin America with four overall.
This proved to be enough though, and after a timing error initially gave the Semi-Final place to Team Sweden (who had also scored four wins in their group) Latin America were rewarded with a place alongside Group B winners Team Nordic.
Group B had seen Johan Kristoffersson of Sweden the only driver to win all his heats, but was let down by Joel Eriksson, while Rudy Van Buren of SIM Racing All-Stars, provided the upset of the night, winning two heats against Formula 3 stars Lando Norris and Eriksson. Team Great Britain and SIM Racing would also fail to qualify.
Finally Group C was made up of the local middle-east teams, with Team Saudi Arabia beating the UAE and Lebanon based on the best heat time of 59.34 seconds set by Ahmed Bin Khanen. He was the only driver in the group under one minute despite being the ROC Factor rookie representative.
The Semi’s though would not be as successful for Saudi though, with Team Germany beating Khanen and WRC teammate Yazeed Al-Rajhi 2-0.
Montoya would beat Team Nordic’s Tom Kristensen in the opening round, with Petter Solberg pulling it back to 1-1. Both drivers had been the stars of last years ROC, though it would be Montoya who continued his unbeaten run by defeating the Norwegian in the final leg.
As expected this set up a final between Germany and Latin America, with Rast taking first blood against Montoya in the Whelen NASCAR, a vehicle the Colombian should have been familiar with. Castroneves saved face by taking only his second win, against the until-then undefeated Bernhard in the Vuhl 05 by 1.5 seconds.
Rast was chosen for Team Germany, stepping up against Castroneves for the final, but it was not to be for the South Americans with Rast taking the flag and the title, in what was his and Bernhard’s first ever ROC.
Rast commented; “The whole event is so much fun and I’ve really enjoyed being here, driving against these big stars. There are all these names that I used to watch when I was young: in Formula 1, in World Rally, all these different categories. So now to compete against these guys and to end up winning? It’s like a dream come true…”
While Bernhard added; “We know Team Germany have a big history here at the Race Of Champions. In Germany we call the team ethic ‘Mannschaft’ and there’s something about it that also seems to correlate with motor sport. So we’re very proud to win the ROC Nations Cup.”