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Drugovich, Neuville, Rosenqvist to make ROC debuts in 2023, Coulthard and Kristensen return

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Credit: Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment

With just over a month until racing in Pite Havsbad, the 2023 Race of Champions field continues to grow. David Coulthard and Tom Kristensen have confirmed their returns to the race, while Felipe DrugovichThierry Neuville, and Felix Rosenqvist are set for their maiden runs.

Hailing from Brazil, Drugovich is fresh off winning the FIA Formula 2 Championship, doing so in dominant fashion with five wins and over 100 points on the rest of the field. While his 2023 plans are limited to being a reserve driver for Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 Team at the moment, the Race of Champions will provide him with a chance to keep his racing skills sharp, even if it is off-road.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to get to race against so many big names at the Race Of Champions,” said Drugovich. “It will be tough for me going from asphalt to racing on snow and ice for the first time, but I will try to learn as quickly as possible. Whatever happens it will be a lot of fun and a fantastic experience.”

By contrast, Neuville is more than familiar with snowy and icy surfaces. He is a seventeen-time winner in the World Rally Championship with five runner-up points finishes. The Belgian finished third in the 2022 championship with two victories.

He is no stranger to victory in the snow, let alone in Sweden, as he won the Rally Sweden in 2018Sébastien Loeb, who has raced against Neuville on occasion in WRC, proved rally drivers are the easy favourites to succeed on such a surface by winning the 2022 ROC.

“[ROC is] a race I have always wanted to do and I’m really looking forward to competing on snow and ice on the frozen Baltic sea alongside motorsport legends,” commented Neuville. “Driving on that kind of surface promises to be a lot of fun and I hope I can use my experience from Rally Sweden to perform at the top. I know the competition will be tough but, for sure, I’m aiming for the win and I will give my best to put on a good show over the weekend in Pite Havsbad.”

Rosenqvist enjoys a return to his native Sweden. The NTT IndyCar Series regular finished eighth in the 2022 points with a podium at Toronto, while he scored his first and to date only win at Road America in 2020. 2023 will mark his third season with Arrow McLaren.

“I’m thrilled to finally make my début in the Race of Champions,” Rosenqvist said. “It’s an event I’ve followed throughout my childhood all the way until today, and I actually attended it once at Wembley with my dad a few years ago. I have always enjoyed the challenge of driving different cars, and my career has been largely shaped by that curiosity, so I’m tremendously excited to try out the ROC platform and to do so in front of my home fans in Sweden.”

Kristensen, the all-time leader in 24 Hours of Le Mans overall victories, is a five-time ROC runner-up in 2005, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2017. He also won the Nations Cup alongside Mattias Ekström for Team Scandinavia in 2005, Petter Solberg for Team Nordic in 2014, and Johan Kristoffersson under the Nordic banner in 2019.

“I’ve competed in ROC all over the world, from the gravel of Gran Canaria to asphalt at iconic stadiums everywhere from Beijing to London to Bangkok,” commented Kristensen. “Each track has unique challenges but Sweden’s snow and ice must be up there with the most fun we’ve ever had. Whatever happens, I will try to learn from my experience last year and give everything while trying to put on a fantastic show for the motorsport fans watching in Sweden and around the world.”

An ex-Formula One driver, Coulthard won the ROC individual tournament in 2014 and 2018. In 2022, he teamed up with Jamie Chadwick to represent Great Britain for the Nations Cup.

“What brings me back to the Race of Champions year after year is the camaraderie between the drivers,” Coulthard stated. “It’s been a privilege to go up against legends from so many different fields of motorsport over the years, and many future stars too. This year’s lineup is no exception and it’s special to have a chance to race against young chargers like Felipe Drugovich.

“Racing on Sweden’s snow and ice earlier this year was a unique experience for me and a steep learning curve. In fact it was Tom Kristensen who knocked me out, but thanks to the whole spirit of ROC you race hard but you don’t get bitter when you lose. That won’t stop me wanting to get him back in January, though.”

Chadwick, Kristoffersson, and reigning Nations Cup winner Solberg have also confirmed their entries, as have Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.

The 2023 Race of Champions will take place on 28/29 January.

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