2019 Race of Champions: Weekend Preview

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Race of Champions

The 30th annual Race of Champions comes to Mexico this weekend, bringing together Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR, sports car, and off-road racing champions for two days of unpredictable action. With cars unlike almost anything that any of the drivers have raced anywhere else, a brand new circuit to learn, and limited track time, ROC has always served as a way to identify the best of the best in motorsport. Here’s our all-encompassing preview of this weekend’s event:

The Course

The 2019 ROC course has been built in the Foro Sol stadium section of Mexico’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the country’s Formula 1 circuit and former host to what is now known as the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Returning to a format last used in London in 2015, this year’s ROC course features a “pursuit-style” track layout, as termed by the event itself.

Think of it this way: there are two start-finish lines, one for each competitor, and each roughly separated by half of the track. While competitors are facing the opposite way at the start of the lap, they’re really just starting the same course from different points. Whoever gets back to their respective line first is the winner. World Rally Championship legend Michele Mouton and acclaimed stunt driver Terry Grant designed the course.

The Cars

Half a dozen vehicles have been selected for this year’s event, including the staple ROC Car (buggy), KTM X-Bow, and Ariel Atom that have come in many ways to define the event. In addition, the Vuhl 05 returns to ROC competition for the third time, this time with increased horsepower, a faster top speed, and lower 0-60 time than ever before.

The other two vehicles are multi-surface rides that have also seen repeated action in ROC events. Supercar Lites, which made their debut at ROC Miami, return to the event, in a partnership between Olsbergs MSE (who builds the cars) and DirtFish Rally School (who runs the ones being used at ROC in Americas Rallycross). In addition, Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks will also return to the event, not only for ROC competition use, but also for a points-paying race event (more on that later).

The Competitors

10 national teams will compete in Saturday’s action, including three Mexican national teams and one team made up of top sim racers. Sunday will feature 20 drivers competing for the individual title. Before each day, a group of Mexican racers will compete for an at-large bid in each event, including a spot alongside Daniel Suarez on Team Telcel Mexico on Saturday and in the individual bracket on Sunday. The full competitor draw is below, per the ROC website:

ROC Nations Cup Draw (Saturday)

Group A

  • Team GERMANY (Sebastian Vettel & Mick Schumacher)
  • Team MEXICO (Esteban Gutierrez & Patricio O’Ward)
  • Team INFINITUM MEXICO (Memo Rojas & Benito Guerra)
  • Team FRANCE (Pierre Gasly & Loïc Duval)

Group B

  • Team BRAZIL (Helio Castroneves & Lucas di Grassi)
  • Team TELCEL MEXICO (Daniel Suárez & ROC Mexico Saturday winner*)
  • Team SIM RACING ALL STARS (Enzo Bonito & eROC winner)

Group C 

  • Team NORDIC (Tom Kristensen & Johan Kristoffersson)
  • Team GREAT BRITAIN (David Coulthard & Andy Priaulx)
  • Team USA (Ryan Hunter-Reay & Josef Newgarden)

Race Of Champions Draw (Sunday)

Group A

  • David COULTHARD (Great Britain) 13-time Formula 1 grand prix winner
  • Tom KRISTENSEN (Denmark) nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner
  • Patricio O’WARD (Mexico) 2018 Indy Lights Champion
  • Winner of Round 1A between the ROC Mexico Sunday winner* and Andy PRIAULX

Group B

  • Johan KRISTOFFERSSON (Sweden) double FIA World Rallycross Champion
  • Lucas DI GRASSI (Brazil) 2016-2017 Formula E Champion
  • Josef NEWGARDEN (USA) 2017 IndyCar Champion
  • Winner of Round 1B between Loïc DUVAL and Helio CASTRONEVES

Group C

  • Sebastian VETTEL (Germany) four-time Formula 1 World Champion
  • Daniel SUAREZ (Mexico) 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion
  • Benito GUERRA (Mexico) 2012 Production World Rally Champion
  • Winner of Round 1C between Memo ROJAS and Mick SCHUMACHER

Group D

  • Pierre GASLY (France) Formula 1 driver for Red Bull Racing in 2019
  • Esteban GUTIERREZ (Mexico) Formula 1 driver for Sauber and Haas
  • Ryan HUNTER-REAY (USA) 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner
  • Winner of Round 1D between Enzo BONITO and the 2019 eROC Champion

*Before each day’s action Mexican drivers Rubén García Jr, Pancho Name, Abraham Calderón, Martín Fuentes, Ricardo Triviño, Rubén Rovelo, Ricardo Sánchez and Ricardo Cordero will fight it out for a place in the ROC field.

Stadium Super Trucks

Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks have been an ROC staple for a number of years now, but the 2019 event will actually see SST compete in points-paying racing as part of the show. The event will be considered part of the 2018 championship standings, which Matt Brabham currently leads by a solid 37 points over Gavin Harlien, and an insurmountable 127 over Gordon.

All three will be competing, as will fellow SST regulars and Gordon’s Dakar Rally teammates Cole Potts and Blade Hildebrand. They’ll be joined by fellow full-timer Jeff Hoffman and four frequent SST guest drivers: trophy truck racer Apdaly Lopez, short course veteran Jerett Brooks, second-generation racer Davey Hamilton Jr., and NASCAR and IndyCar veteran Casey Mears.

As always, the SST event will include additional metal ramps added to the track surface to get the trucks flying into the air. As with most of the series’ races, the event will be live streamed to the SST Facebook page.

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