David Coulthard showed that there is still life in the old dog after claiming an unexpected victory at the Race of Champions in Barbados.
The 13-time grand prix winner prevailed after a Grand Final win over the latest Mercedes F1 reserve, Pascal Wehrlein, while another F1 hopeful, Esteban Ocon, made the semi-finals, along with V8 Supercar stalwart Jamie Whincup.
Coulthard put in a stunning performance to eclipse 15 other stars at Bushy Park, continuing the theme of veteran success after Team Nordic's triumph in Saturday's RoC Nations Cup was led by Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg.
On another hot afternoon, the best-of-three Grand Final resulted in Coulthard avenging his previous Race Of Champions showdown, when he lost out by the narrowest margin to rally legend Sébastien Loeb at Wembley in 2008. This time he prevailed over young German challenger Wehrlein, who can nonetheless be proud of his run to the Grand Final at the first attempt.
“We've had a fantastic week, never mind a fantastic race weekend, so huge thanks to all the wonderful people of Barbados for coming out – and of course to Fredrik Johnsson and his team at RoC," Coulthard said afterwards, "I'm retired so it's lovely to get another trophy, but I think everyone can see that, in Pascal, we have a star for the future. He's already signed up with Mercedes in F1 as a reserve driver and winning races in the DTM, so motorsport's in good health with great young drivers like this.
“I'm pleasantly very surprised but I'm slightly embarrassed because there's such great talent out there. Maybe not racing for two years is the secret! Of course I don't race any more but, at this event, I had the advantage because being 23 years older than Pascal I'm used to changing gear whereas he was looking for the semi-automatic shift! I think a small rum punch is in order...”
Despite defeat at the final hurdle, Wehrlein echoed Coulthard's enthusiasm for the event.
“It was a pleasure for me to be here and to drive in the Race of Champions," he agreed, "It was so much fun but, in the end, David did really well. I couldn't beat him – maybe because for me it's a bit tough to drive a manual shift car with a clutch and everything.
"I'm used to driving with shift pedals and braking with my left foot, so I was struggling a bit with that, but today David was unbeatable, so congratulations to him. To reach the Grand Final and lose against him is not bad for my first year. During the weekend I've improved so maybe I'll come back next year and see what happens...”
At the semi-final stage, Coulthard pipped six-time V8 Supercar champion Whincup by just two tenths of a second, while the other race was a battle of the young guns as Wehrlein eliminated the 2014 FIA European F3 champion Ocon.
Coulthard had a spectacular quarter-final win over FIA World Rallycross champion Solberg in the Volkswagen Polo RX, meaning there was to be no repeat of the RoC Nations Cup glory the Norwegian enjoyed yesterday.
The quarter-finals were a bad round for the American drivers as no less than three of them went out in quick succession. Ocon defeated the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Whincup beat NASCAR champion Kurt Busch and Wehrlein saw off the challenge of seven-time off-road champion Robby Gordon.
To start the afternoon's action, the drivers were earlier split into four groups of four, battling for the right to line up in the knockout stages.
Coulthard began in dominant fashion, taking three wins out of three in Group A. But there was a surprise in store for the reigning RoC Champion of Champions Romain Grosjean, who was beaten into third place and eliminated by Whincup after a duel in the Stadium Super Trucks. Five-time 500cc MotoGP World Champion Mick Doohan also failed to progress.
Busch was the dominant driver in Group B, also picking up a perfect three wins. On the way he defeated Solberg, who took second place. Home star Rhett Watson could not repeat his heroics of yesterday's RoC Caribbean triumph but he gave the crowd something to cheer with a win against Susie Wolff, the RoC Nations Cup runner-up, who also went out.
Gordon stormed through Group C with all three wins, while Ocon joined him in the quarter-finals with two. Out went World Touring Car champion José-Maria 'Pechito' López despite his victory over Jamaica's Doug Gore, who qualified as the fastest non-Barbados driver from yesterday's ROC Caribbean.
Hunter-Reay came away from Group D with a perfect record, but there was a shock as Wehrlein also progressed at the expense of Le Mans legend Kristensen. After yesterday's RoC Nations Cup triumph alongside Solberg for Team Nordic, the Dane came back down to earth with a bump after a spectacular off in the Stadium Super Truck. GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer also went out – becoming yet another victim of the Truck as he spun it into the wall.
Young charger Ocon earlier sealed the first triumph of the day in the inaugural RoC Skills Challenge, which put the drivers through their paces over a range of tests such as slaloms, 180- and 360-degree turns and parallel parking. Ocon showed his stuntman potential as he set the fastest time ahead of Kristensen and Solberg.