Former F1 race winner Juan Pablo Montoya has won the Race Of Champions title at Miami's Marlins Park on his first attempt.
Montoya, who currently competes in IndyCar, saw off Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen - taking in his fifth ROC Grand Final - with two straight heat wins to become Champion of Champions in the individual competition.
“First I want to thank all the fans who came out today,” said Montoya. “Fredrik Johnsson and everyone at the Race Of Champions have put together an amazing event, it's unbelievable. Today I'm regretting not having done this before. It has been an amazing experience.
“It's not our job, it's a fun event. But when you go to the grid you want to warm the tyres and the brakes. You think about how to drop the clutch, what to do in the first corner. It's unbelievable how focused you are. It's like qualifying.
“I don't know what gave me the edge. I don't have pride, I just kept asking people what they were doing. That way I kept adding things to the database of what I needed to do. I spoke to David Coulthard just before the final to ask whether I had to change gears in the cars because I had no idea. It went well… must be beginner's luck!”
Kristensen, who was making a record-equalling 15th consecutive Race Of Champions appearance, matching the mark set by rally legend Stig Blomqvist, was magnanimous in defeat.
“I'm proud to have made it to the final and I enjoy it immensely to be here,” said the Dane. “I've been retired for two years but coming here of course you don't forget what you live for. We are racing drivers and to be invited to the Race Of Champions brings the best out of us.
“If you're too cautious you don't win but if you are too brave you can get it wrong so easily. But the camaraderie is special. You try to do your best and in the end all the races are extremely close so you never know beforehand who will win.
“So well done to Juan Pablo. I've known him for many years and I always knew he would have an exceptional career.”
Earlier in the day, Montoya had beaten Williams F1 star Felipe Massa and action sports legend Travis Pastrana to progress to the final, while Kristensen had to dispense with former British F1 pilots David Coulthard and Jenson Button to get through his semi and quarter finals respectively.
Ferrari ace and defending ROC title holder Sebastien Vettel was knocked out in the group stages, along with fellow F1 pilot Pascal Wehrlein – who survived a big crash
– as well as NASCAR champion Kurt Busch, double World Rallycross Champion and 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg and Indy Car racers Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and NASCAR champion Kyle Busch exited in the quarter finals after losing out respectively to semi-finalists Massa and Coulthard.
Drivers will now team-up for the ROC Nations Cup on Sunday, before events culminate with the first ever 'Ryder Cup-style America vs The World' finale.
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