Latin America will be well represented for the 2022 Race of Champions on 5/6 February. On Wednesday, ROC announced Hélio Castroneves and Benito Guerra Jr. will drive for Team Latin America in the Nations Cup. While the former makes his fourth start in the event, the latter is the defending Champion of Champions.
Castroneves will arrive in Pite Havsbad, Sweden, as the defending Indianapolis 500 winner; he is one of four drivers to win the prestigious event four times. The longtime NTT IndyCar Series driver and IMSA champion made his ROC début at Miami in 2017 for a Latin American outfit alongside Argentine amateur track day pilot Gabriel Glusman, a team that was formed via the ROC Factor fan vote. The duo lost to Team Colombia, which incidentally featured a pair of IndyCar veterans in Juan Pablo Montoya (also a former 500 victor) and Gabby Chaves. In the individual tournament, Castroneves advanced out of his group before being swept by fellow Brazilian Felipe Massa in the first round of the knockout stage.
The 2018 race in Riyadh saw Castroneves team up with Montoya, once again as Team Latin America. The two reached the final where they lost to Germany’s Timo Bernhard and René Rast. Montoya and Castroneves also shared a group in the individual tourney, with the former winning while the latter failed to qualify.
A return to ROC at Mexico City in 2019 came with an all-Brazil lineup of Castroneves and Formula E’s Lucas di Grassi. They won their Nations Cup group qualifying but fell to Germany’s current Formula One faces Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher in the semi-final. On his own, Castroneves lost to Loïc Duval of France.
“I’m so excited to be at the Race of Champions,” Castroneves stated. “It’s always an honour to race against the best of the best.
“Winning Indy for the fourth time was an incredible result, especially when you stop and think that only a few drivers on the entire planet have been able to achieve this. But these wins do not necessarily translate very well into the snow experience in Sweden. It will be interesting, to say the least.”
While the snow/ice surface for ROC will certainly be a far cry from Castroneves’ paved racing experience, he is not totally unfamiliar with it. In 2018, he entered a RallyX on Ice race in Norway, though he did not reach the semi-final. Nevertheless, although he quipped the icy conditions were not meant for him as a Brazilian who resides in Florida, he commented after the start that it was “so much fun.”
While Castroneves did not make it far in the 2019 individual bracket, Guerra defeated Duval to win the tournament on his home soil. The Mexican rally driver faced a gauntlet of F1 drivers in Vettel and Pierre Gasly prior to taking on Duval.
Prior to 2019, Guerra’s only other ROC entry came at Bangkok in 2012 shortly after winning the Production World Rally Championship, where he served as a partner to IndyCar champ Ryan Hunter-Reay on Team Americas. The two were knocked out in the group round before Guerra failed to win a single race in his individual group.
Since the PWRC title, he has been a part-time competitor in WRC as a privateer and also recorded starts in WRC-2 and -3; he won the 2019 WRC-3 Rally Mexico round. Guerra first appeared in WRC in 2006. In October, he finished third in the Exhibition Cars class at the La Carerra Panamericana, a 3,600-km Mexican long-distance race that spans seven days and is a revival of the infamous event by the same name from the 1950s.
“I am thrilled to be part of this amazing competition once again,” commented Guerra. “For sure, this one will be a hard-fought battle. I will do my best to try to keep my title. I am thankful for the support from my partners, the people in Mexico, and my family who continue to push and inspire me.”
ROC president Fredrik Johnsson noted that the two “represent very different racing disciplines, but have both have shown they can be very competitive at the Race Of Champions. Now, it will be very interesting to see how they both adapt to racing on snow and ice to see if they can create another surprise at ROC Sweden.”