23 June 2015
Kristensen breaks retirement for RoC retrurn
Tom Kristensen will emerge from retirement to reform his winning Race of Champions partnership with rallycross ace Petter Solberg this November.
Reigning RoC Nations Cup champions Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg have confirmed that they will defend their title at the 2015 Race of Champions later this year, with the Dane effectively coming out of retirement to recreate the victorious veteran partnership.
Le Mans legend Kristensen and current FIA World Rallycross champion Solberg took a surprise victory for Team Nordic in Barbados last year, and will now bid for a repeat at London's Olympic Stadium, which is set to stage its fastest ever races over the weekend of 20-21 November.
Kristensen is widely acknowledged as the finest endurance racer in motorsport history, having a record nine wins at the Le Mans 24 Hours to add to his record six wins at the Sebring 12 Hours, an American Le Mans Series title and the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship crown. Since his retirement from WEC at the end of last season, he has continued to work as an ambassador for Audi and was the Grand Marshal at last week's Le Mans 24 Hours.
“My 'official' last race was at the World Endurance Championship in Sao Paulo last year, but I count the Race of Champions as the exception to the rule!” Kristensen admitted, “I've been coming here for many years and I hope to keep that up into the future. The challenge is to drive against top drivers from a wide range of motorsport series, but what we all love about RoC is that we get to socialise off the track too. RoC is always great fun, and I'm sure it will treat a pensioner very well!
“It was great to win the Nations Cup with Petter in Barbados last year. Denmark and Norway are usually rivals rather than partners but we showed we can team up if we really have to… We worked very well together and last year's victory shows that, I guess. There were a lot of tight finishes but, in the end, we showed those younger drivers we still have what it takes. Now I'll look forward to putting on a show for the crowds in London and hopefully take my first individual RoC title.”
Solberg, meanwhile, can justifiably claim to be another member of motorsport's elite, having reached the top of the world in two different fields. The Norwegian won the FIA World Rally Championship in 2003 and amassed over 50 WRC podiums in his glittering career before switching to the FIA World Rallycross Championship last year and duly winning the title at his first attempt. Solberg is currently leading this year's championship as he bids to defend his title.
“Of course, there is a fun side to the Race of Champions, but that's not why we all come,” Solberg added, “When I do anything, I always want to give 110 per cent, so we come to race, push to the max and show the rest who's boss. But, at RoC, you don't get much time to think and you have to get straight on the pace, so it's not easy.
“The big problem is that all the other drivers are as crazy as I am! Nonetheless, Tom and I had a good run last year and we'll do everything to reach the top of the podium again in London. Then I'll work just as hard to beat him – and everyone else – in the individual Race of Champions. Either way, we'll put on plenty of action for the fans to make sure everyone leaves the former Olympic Stadium with a smile on their face.”
Prior to last year in Barbados, Solberg's last Race of Champions appearance came in London, at Wembley Stadium, in 2007 when he partnered brother Henning to the semi-finals of the ROC Nations Cup. Kristensen, meanwhile, has rather more experience, having appeared at every RoC event since 2001.
Following their RoC Nations Cup victory in Barbados last year, Kristensen and Solberg will also join the reigning RoC Champion of Champions David Coulthard in the individual Race of Champions, with the rest of the superstar field due to be announced in the run-up to the event.
“We are delighted to welcome Tom and Petter back to this year's Race of Champions in London,” event president Fredrik Johnsson concluded, “They are both exceptional drivers in their fields and they proved how strong they can be as a team when they saw off all challengers to win the RoC Nations Cup last year in Barbados. I'm sure they will both be serious contenders again in the former Olympic Stadium.
“Quite apart from all the honours they have gained in their illustrious careers, what sets these two apart is how entertaining they are to watch. Tom can turn his hand to anything on wheels and the way Petter throws cars around a track has to be seen to be believed. This is a unique chance for race fans to watch their mastery in action at close quarters in the intimacy of a stadium environment. We anticipate a full house in November to enjoy the truly memorable show these greats will put on.”
The Race of Champions will be the former Olympic Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park's final event before the next phase of works to transform into a year-round multi-use venue ramp up ahead of a full re-opening in 2016.
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