For motorsport fans, no sound is as sweet as a thundering roar of a Formula One engine. No air is as invigorating as a whiff of burning rubber on a circuit. No sight is as electrifying as when their favourite racers round the curve faultlessly at breakneck speed. And no moment seems as sexy as an intimate encounter with a line-up of powerful racing machines.
The 25th Race Of Champions will see winners from the world’s premier motorsports competing against each other in a series of identical vehicles, including KTM X-Bows and specially manufactured buggies, to prove their driving skills with no technological differences in the machines.
These people breathe Formula One, talk World Rally Championship and fancy MotoGP. And it doesn't matter if they are living in Thailand, with few chances to experience the first-hand thrill of world-class tournaments.
Yet, thanks to an ambitious collaboration between the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), Red Bull and Singha Corporation, speed fans in the Kingdom will no longer be confined to watching the exploits of heroes like Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel via satellite.
The seven-time champion and recently retired (again) Schumacher and triple winner Vettel will be among the motorsport superstars in Bangkok for the Red Bull Singha Race Of Champions, which takes place at Rajamangala National Stadium from Dec 14-16. They will be joined by Jorge Lorenzo (MotoGP), Sebastien Ogier (World Rally Championship), Romain Grosjean (Formula One), Ryan Hunter-Reay (IndyCar Series), Jamie Whincup (V8 Supercar), Mick Doohan (MotoGP), David Coulthard (Formula One), Andy Priaulx (World Touring Car) and Tom Kristensen (24 Hours of Le Mans).
The race, which chose Thailand to host its 25th anniversary celebration, will pit these powerhouses head-to-head in an impressive battle over the three-day festival.
The event will kick off next Friday with the ROC Asia Cup.
The following day, Dec 15, features the ROC Nations Cup with top racers from eight countries competing for their homeland, when German superstars Vettel and Schumacher will defend their title. The final round will be held on Dec 16 with the overall winner crowned Champion of Champions.
Michael de Santiesteban, a representative of Red Bull's owner and one of the people credited with bringing the race to Thailand, said: "The beauty of ROC is that it gathers so many race car champions in one place. The racers compete against each other in identical cars, giving the audience the chance to witness the drivers' skill, rather than the technological differences in their cars."
Kanokphand Chulakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, noted: ''This is the second time that the ROC event has been staged outside Europe. And Thailand has never before seen a grand-scale, international competition like this.''
A daredevil two-wheel stunt show by streetbike freestyler Chris Pfeiffer.
Red Bull's de Santiesteban mentioned the all-star competition could be regarded as a stepping stone for Thailand toward a more momentous race _ a Formula One grand prix.
According to him, the idea of bringing a Formula One race to Bangkok has always been a dream of Red Bull owner Chalerm Yoovidhya. While Red Bull's Formula One team just clinched its third consecutive World Championship title, the dream for a race in Bangkok remains unfulfilled. He wishes to honour His Majesty King Bhumibol while carrying on the project initiated more than 70 years ago by Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh, the country's first and only grand prix winner, to host a grand prix in Bangkok. The prince's dream was shattered when World War II broke out.
''We were in the midst of Formula One strategic planning when we were presented with the opportunity to host ROC,'' de Santiesteban said. ''As it's a major international event, we decided that it should be a joint collaboration between the government and the private sector to make the best case that Thailand, as host, is not second to anyone.''
Race Of Champions president and founder Fredrik Johnsson confirmed: ''ROC has worked with the Thai team for several months, starting with the strategic planning, logistics, liaison and all the other necessary groundwork, to make sure that everything is up to ROC standards.''
De Santiesteban explained: ''The event has to be in line with the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile [FIA]'s requirements. Those requirements and the guidelines and specifications from the organiser are extensive.''
According to him, the track was designed on site by Michele Mouton, the only woman to win the World Rally Championship. The organiser flew in a team of scrutineers from Europe to make sure all vehicles meet FIA standard, and security around the event has to be meticulously checked to ensure driver and crowd safety. The distance between spectators and the track, the thickness of protective barriers, having quality medical crews on hand, and knowing the distance to nearby hospitals have been among the organisers' priorities.
Other than the race itself, the event will also feature a great number of fun-filled activities from major sponsors. Starting from Wednesday, the SAT's ground around the stadium will be turned into a free motor festival. The festival will run until Dec 16.
For ticket-buying fans, race nights will feature pre-show events inside the stadium from 6pm onwards. Highlights include demonstration runs in the title-winning Red Bull Racing F1 car by three-time champ Vettel and a parade on a Yamaha motorbike by MotoGP king Lorenzo. Enthusiasts will no doubt admire the daredevil two-wheel stunts of streetbike freestyler Chris Pfeiffer on his BMW F800R, while 1984 world rally champion Stig Blomqvist will astound with a spin in a classic Audi S1 rally car and stunt driver Terry Grant is out to set a new mark for the most consecutive doughnuts while standing on the roof of his car. To ensure non-stop entertainment, there will be off-track activities in the stadium including mini concerts, cheerleading, workshops, exhibitions and games.
''Our primary objective in hosting this event is to raise awareness in motorsports. We wanted this event to be accessible for all, so we resisted offering tickets at very expensive prices despite the fact that tickets for such events are usually rather expensive,'' de Santiesteban said.
He also noted that the event is expected to attract the full spectrum of motorsport enthusiasts: men, women and children, as well as aficionados from other countries in the Asian region. The race will be broadcast live to the US, Europe and Asia and is expected to draw about 19 million viewers.
Red Bull Singha Race Of Champions will be held on Dec 14-16 at Rajamangala National Stadium on Ramkhamhaeng Road. Tickets are available at Thai Ticket Major, tel 02-262-3456. For more information, visit www.raceofchampions.com.
WHAT IS THE RACE OF CHAMPIONS?
First launched in 1988 by former rally champion Michele Mouton and motorsport mogul Fredrik Johnsson, the Race Of Champions is an annual gathering of racers from premier motorsports, including Formula One, World Rally Championship, Nascar, IndyCar Series and MotoGP, who come to compete against each other in a series of identical vehicles over a two-day race.
The cars used in the race vary from year to year, but usually include a World Rally Car, KTM X-Bow, a sports car and a ROC car (a motorcycle engine-powered buggy manufactured solely for the ROC race). Before each run, one type of car is assigned to the drivers, each machine identical. Over the course of the event, each driver gets to drive several different cars to prove themselves in.
For the Race Of Champions Cup, the 16 superstar drivers are split (by draw) into four groups of four. Each driver races against the contestants in his group. The two drivers with the most wins from each group progress to the finals, which culminate in a head-to-head showdown. The overall winner is given the title ''Champion of Champions''.
The ROC Nations Cup features teams of two drivers who compete for their country in a head-to-head, best-of-three knockout event. The ROC Asia Cup, introduced for the first time this year, seeks to find Asia's fastest nation. The winners will later race against the world's best drivers in the Nations Cup.
Over the past 25 years, the event has taken place in major sporting venues worldwide including Wembley Stadium in London, Esprit Arena in Dusseldorf, Stade de France in Paris and China's ''Bird's Nest'' National Stadium in Beijing. This will be the second time the event is held in Asia.
F1 heroes Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel will be among other international superstar racers in Bangkok next weekend.
About the author
- Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter