Team Germany’s World Endurance Champion Timo Bernhard and DTM champion Rene Rast took a stunning victory in the ROC Nations Cup at Riyadh’s King Fahad International Stadium.
On a chilly evening in the Saudi Arabian capital, legends from the world’s biggest motor sport series teamed up in pairs to battle for national and regional pride. They raced a mix of cars – including the Vuhl 05 ROC Edition, Ariel Atom Cup, Xtreme Pickup, Whelen NASCAR, KTM X-Bow Comp R and the ROC Car – on a purpose-built parallel track featuring a unique crossover bridge.
Ultimately, Bernhard and Rast prevailed in the final against the Team Latin America’s IndyCar legends Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves.
In the first heat Rast beat off the challenge of Colombia’s Montoya. Castroneves struck back by beating Bernhard in the second heat but Rast was just too strong in the finale to win the ROC Nations Cup for Team Germany for a record eighth time.
Team Saudi Arabia (Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Ahmed Bin Khanen) thrilled their home fans in the Riyadh stadium by making it as far as the semi-finals before they were beaten in straight heats by Team Germany.
The other semi-final featured an epic battle between many of the biggest names of global motorsport as Team Latin America took on Team Nordic (“Mr. Le Mans” Tom Kristensen and World Rallycross champion Petter Solberg). Montoya and Solberg took a win each before the Colombian won the decisive final heat.
The evening’s action began with the 11 teams – an all-time record entry for the ROC Nations Cup – split into three round-robin groups. Many greats fell by the wayside at this early stage.
Team USA – IndyCar champions Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden (pictured, image by Jim Hancock/ROC) – were one of the early casualties. Newgarden took two wins but it wasn’t enough to see them through a very competitive Group A. The other pairing knocked out was Team Mexico (Memo Rojas and Abraham Calderon) despite their single win.
Team Germany topped Group A with five wins while Team Latin America took four wins – including three out of three for Montoya – and they progressed as the best second-placed team.
Group B also saw some huge names go out of the competition, not least Team Great Britain – despite a win apiece for David Coulthard and Lando Norris. Team Nordic and Team Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson and Joel Eriksson both finished on four wins, but the Nordic pair qualified for the semi-finals on countback of fastest times.
The revelations of the night were surely Team Simracing All Stars (Rudy van Buren and Enzo Bonito) for whom Van Buren took two wins against the professional racers, but it wasn’t quite enough to help the gamers make it any further.
Group C was an all-Middle East affair and it was a incredibly duel, with all three teams finishing with two wins. But it was Team Saudi Arabia that thrilled their home fans by going through on countback of fastest times. That meant Team UAE (Khaled Al Qubaisi and Khalid Al Qassimi) and Team Lebanon (Karl Massaad and Mansour Chebli) bade farewell to the competition.
Earlier in the day Enzo Bonito came out on top in the first ever eROC competition between some of the world’s fastest gamers. The action took place both in real-life ROC Cars on the Riyadh track and in the virtual world of Assetto Corsa.
The Italian saw off the challenge of Britain’s F1 eSports world champion Brendon Leigh in an enthralling final to win his place on the grid for the ROC Nations Cup and the Race Of Champions. French gamer Kevin Leaune and Germany’s Alexander Dornieden also performed well but were knocked out in the group stages.
There is plenty more action to come in Riyadh on Saturday as the drivers go it alone in the individual Race Of Champions. All the action starts at 4pm local time in Riyadh.