Race of Champions

Sebastien Loeb wins fourth Race of Champions

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Credit: Race of Champions

It is often joked that if you want to be a successful racing driver, you should be named Seb. Red Bull took this to another level by supporting multiple drivers with the name over the years with the likes of Bourdais, Buemi, and Ogier, and perhaps most notably nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb and four-time Formula One titlist Sebastian Vettel. Sunday’s Race of Champions individual tournament pitted the two against each other for the Champion of Champions crown, and Loeb would ultimately claim the victory.

Loeb’s run to the final began with victory over one half of Saturday’s Nations Cup winners and ex-WRC rival Petter Solberg, while Vettel beat Finland’s Emma Kimiläinen. Vettel then faced American Colton Herta, who advanced after beating fellow IndyCar driver and Team Latin America’s Helio Castroneves and Great Britain’s Jamie Chadwick who had won over Vettel’s German team-mate Mick Schumacher. Herta, who defeated Vettel in the Nations Cup, fell short in the ROC as Vettel set the faster aggregate times.

Meanwhile, Loeb’s took down Oliver Solberg to sweep the Nations Cup champion team, and took on Mattias Ekström after Ekström dealt with fellow Swede Johan Kristoffersson. Team Nordic’s Tom Kristensen handled USA’s Jimmie Johnson to challenge Vettel in the semi-finals but lost. Loeb triumphed over Ekstrom to move on.

In the best-of-five final, Loeb struck first. Although Vettel got a win of his own. Loeb pulled away to score the 3–1 victory. Loeb is now a four-time ROC champion after previously winning in 2003, 2006, and 2011, which ties him with French team-mate Didier Auriol for the most in the event’s history; Loeb also won the Nations Cup in 2004 alongside Jean Alesi.

It is perhaps fitting that Loeb took home the crown due to his rallying background. The 2022 ROC was the first to conducted on a snow and ice track, located in Pite Havsbad, Sweden.

“It’s been a long time since I was last at the Race of Champions, so I’m happy to find out that at 47 years of age, I still have the pace,” quipped Loeb. “This adds to my good start to the season: second in the Dakar Rally, first in Monte Carlo, and now a victory here at ROC. It wasn’t easy for us to go up against all the Swedish and Norwegian guys because they are more used to these conditions. I also knew it would be tough adapting between the Porsche, buggy and rallycross cars, but after I made it through against Petter Solberg, I got more confidence with each run. It was a nice fight with Seb in the final and I had a good feeling, except for when I completely lost control of the car in the third heat. Now here we are, and it’s great to equal Didier’s record of four ROC Champion of Champions titles.

Vettel, the 2015 ROC winner, commented that “the conditions were tricky out there and it was getting more and more slippery, which I guess is normal for snow and ice. I don’t have that much experience so it was a struggle to adapt. In my day job, getting sideways is what we try to avoid, but I felt I was improving every time I drove. That’s a good sign, but also a sign that I still have a lot to learn.”

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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