It would be Benito Guerra who caused an upset at the Race of Champions to become the first Mexican Champion of Champions at his home event at the Foro Sol in Mexico City.
The Semi-Final had seen World Endurance Championship driver Loic Duval take on the on-form Patricio O’Ward. The Mexican rookie had caused one of the largest upsets in the quarters, but lost out by 0.3 seconds to the Le Mans winner. It would be even closer in the second Semi with underdog Guerra knocking out former-F1 driver Esteban Gutierrez by just over a tenth of a second.
Guerra had beaten Pierre Gasly early in the competition and started off the final with defeat of the other Frenchman in the first leg.
It would get better in the second stage though, threading the Mexican-built Vuhl 05 around the Foro Sol to beat Duval 2-0. He becomes the first driver to win at their home event since Sebastien Loeb in 2005 and only the second Latin American.
“This feeling in completely amazing,” said an elated Guerra, before speaking Spanish to the home crowd. “I don’t have words in this moment, but I’m really happy to be number 1. This is the first big step in 2019 and I’m looking to win my second world title [in WRC2] this year.”
Guerra, the 2012 Word Rally Champion in PWRC, receives an automatic invitation to 2020’s contest, which he immediately accepted in an interview straight afterwards.
The big surprise of the early stages saw Sebastian Vettel failing to progress. Instead it was Mick Schumacher knocking out the F1 maestro, winning the group with a perfect sweep. Guerra, who beat Vettel, progressed after Daniel Suarez crashed in their heat together.
The first race proved to be a shock for defending champion David Coulthard in Group A, as he ended the race 1.3 seconds behind Saturday surprise performer O’Ward. The Mexican went on to beat fellow countryman Abraham Calderon, though finished second in the group after losing to Tom Kristensen, who won all three races. As for Coulthard, losing to Kristensen by 0.06 seconds proved to be a death knell, only beating ROC Mexico winner Calderon.
Group B saw Duval beat Audi teammate Lucas di Grassi and it would only get worse for the Formula E champion as he jumped the start and hit the barrier in his loss against Johan Kristoffersson. Duval’s match-up against Kristoffersson proved to be vital as the Frenchman’s surprise win saw them both through, knocking out Josef Newgarden.
Pierre Gasly took control of Group D after Ryan Hunter-Reay slowed due to an unprovoked yellow flag. The race was restarted, but the Frenchman kept his perfect sweep, but only after Enzo Bonito hit the barrier in the final corner of his heat. Gutierrez went through in second.
Further surprises came in the quarter-finals as WRX champion Kristoffersson was beaten by O’Ward in a Rallycross car. While Gasly and Schumacher fell by the wayside, Kristensen was knocked out by former Audi teammate Duval.