If F1 world champions Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel are to defend their five successive Race of Champions titles in 2012 they will have to make the trip to Thailand to do so, after event organisers confirmed that the 25th anniversary event would take place in Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium in December.
The unlikely venue beat off a wide range of contenders from around the world to host the event, which has been held in a range of surroundings every year since 1988, bringing together the best drivers from the world's major motorsport disciplines to pair up for the ROC Nations Cup and do battle individually in the Race Of Champions itself. Düsseldorf's ESPRIT arena has provided 'home' advantage for the Germans in the past two seasons, but Schumacher and Vettel also defeated all-comers in Beijing's 'Bird's Nest' Olympic Stadium in 2009 and at Wembley in the two years prior to that. The Bangkok ROC event is only the second to be held outside of Europe.
“We are thrilled that the Race Of Champions is coming to Thailand," deputy prime minister and minister of tourism and sports Chumpol Silapa-archa admitted, "This race will be a perfect opportunity for Thais to see some of the world's greatest drivers and represents another step by the government in its efforts to promote racing and automotive sports in the Kingdom. We aim to bring F1 to Thailand as well.”
While the 2012 driver line-up is unlikely to be known for a while, the Race Of Champions has traditionally attracted some major names, with Jenson Button joining fellow world champions Schumacher and Vettel among ten F1 drivers running last year. That line-up also included multiple Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, touring car world champion Andy Priaulx and even X-Games ace Travis Pastrana. The individual Champion of Champions title was taken by France's WRC ace Sébastien Ogier, who defeated Kristensen in the Grand Final.
The 2012 event will take place on a specially-constructed tarmac track with two parallel lanes winding their way round the 50,000 capacity Rajamangala Stadium, which more usually plays host to the Thai national football team, but has also staged the 1998 Asian Games and 2007 Asian Cup, as well as numerous athletics, music and political events.
“We have again been swamped with offers from first-rate venues all over the world, but we couldn't think of a better place to celebrate our 25th anniversary than Thailand," race organiser Fredrik Johnsson explained, "Following our visit to Beijing's 'Bird's Nest' Olympic Stadium in 2009, this is only the second time the event has been held outside Europe. Now we can look forward to seeing some of the best drivers in the world fighting it out at ROC in Bangkok.”
Information regarding tickets, as well as dates and line-up will be released later in the year.