Heikki Kovalainen will be looking to regain his Race of Champions crown having confirmed that he will return to partner soon-to-retire rally ace Marcus Gronholm in this year's Wembley event.

The Renault F1 star made a name for himself by beating both Sebastien Loeb and Michael Schumacher on his way to the 2004 RoC crown in Paris, and has since gone on to become a regular addition to the F1 pointscorers list, highlighted by his first podium finish, in Japan, just over a week ago.

"Beating Michael was a very nice thing for me," said Kovalainen, who added the RoC title to his World Series by Nissan championship, "I remember watching him race against Ayrton Senna when I was still in karts, so to beat him on a level playing field was quite unbelievable. The reaction from all the fans in the stadium when I climbed on the roof of the car was incredible!"

Kovalainen has been a regular fixture at the Race of Champions since his success, and he is looking forward to the excitement of racing at the new Wembley.

"Driving so close to so many fans creates a very special atmosphere and I'm really looking forward to racing at Wembley Stadium," he admitted, "Last year, I lost in the semi-finals by just 0.0002secs to Sweden's Mattias Ekstr?m, who went on to win the event, so I'm really motivated to try to take back the title."

The RoC switches from Paris to London for the first time this year, with 16 December set to see the great and good from motorsport convene at the home of British football for the unique head-to-head format in front of an expected 80,000 crowd. The Race of Champions will again see drivers compete for individual glory, while the Nations Cup will pit two-man teams against each other. Kovalainen and Gronholm return as defending champions in the latter competition.

"Winning for your nation is something very rare in motorsport," he said, "It's great to represent Finland, which has so many great drivers and where motorsport is so popular. I will do everything we can do defend the title for Finland together with Marcus."

Kovalainen could find himself reprising his battle with both Schumacher and Loeb at Wembley, with the seven-time F1 champion already confirmed to return to the RoC and the French rally ace expected to add his name to the list in the coming weeks.

Although the line-up has sadly lost the late Colin McRae, it is expected to include Kovalainen's F1 rivals Jenson Button and David Coulthard, along with reigning World Touring Car champion Andy Priaulx, three-time Champ Car champion S?bastien Bourdais, seven-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, reigning NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and defending RoC king Ekstr?m, amongst others.

 

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