Germany has taken the Race of Champions Nations Cup title for the first time after Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher tasted success at Wembley Stadium.

Despite the best efforts of Schumacher to throw it all away in the opening heat of the final, Vettel took victory in heat two and then won the decider to ensure victory for the young pretender and the Formula 1 record-breaker.

The Nations Cup started off with France going up against Norway in the opening quarter-final. Champ Car title winner Sebastien Bourdais gave France the lead by beating Henning Solberg at the wheel of the Solution F touring car, leaving it to younger brother Petter to then bring the Norwegian team level in the second heat as he overturned a first lap deficit into a narrow win over Yvan Muller at the wheel of the Ford Focus WRC.

Once the other races were run and Stig Blomqvist had completed a demo run in the Group B Audi Quattro, the two winners returned for the deciding race, with Bourdais going up against Petter Solberg at the wheel of the Race of Champions buggies. For the French however it went quickly wrong as Bourdais sailed on when he should have turned left under the bridge - putting the Norwegian team through to the semi-final.

The second quarter-final saw Finland take on Scandanavia, with newly announced McLaren F1 man Heikki Kovalainen going up against Tom Kristsensen as the Finnish team set out to defend its title. Kovalainen held the lead throughout, coming home just under a second ahead in the Solution F touring cars to give the champions the advantage.

With Marcus Gronholm at the wheel of the Ford Focus he took to second in the WRC standings, the recently retired driver started the second heat as favourite against DTM champ Mattias Ekstrom. Gronholm just held the lead after lap one and took victory to put Finland through- with Ekstrom tagging the wall on the final corner as he attempted to get ahead.

Next up was the 'grudge match' as England and Scotland collided. F1 rivals David Coulthard and Jenson took on the opening heat as the FIAT Punto Arbarth's found in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge made their first appearance in the event. Button held the lead by four tenths of a second at the end of the opening lap leaving DC with work to do but despite his best efforts, the Honda Racing man was able to extend his advantage to more than a second to put England one up.

It meant Alister McRae had to beat three-time WTCC champion Andy Priaulx in the Aston Martin N24 to keep Scotland in the event with both drivers making a solid start when the lights went green. Priaulx opening up a lead of over two seconds on the first lap of the race and McRae was unable to respond - with England going through by two heats to nil.

The final quarter-final was the USA against Germany, with Jimmie Johnson up against Schumacher in the Puntos to start. Johnson made a better start on the outside lane when the lights went green but by the end of lap one, Schumacher had pulled ahead by more than two seconds as Johnson seemed to struggle to get the little FIAT through the tight turns in the London stadium. Although Johnson was tidier on his second lap, Schumacher opened the lead up by a further four tenths to put the Germans ahead. Vettel then set out to wrap up victory against Travis Pastrana, who had been the star of the event last season in Paris while racing alone in the Nations Cup.

Again it was the American who appeared to get off the line better, this time in the Aston Martin, and at the end of the opening lap it was Pastrana who led by more than a second. Pastrana hit the wall in turn one at the start of lap two but held on to secure the win and take it to a decider against Michael Schumacher. Both drivers made a good start in the ROC buggies and it was tight between the two coming into the final turn on lap one, although a mistake for Pastrana saw him tag the wall and gave the advantage to Schumacher. The German then extended that lead through lap two to put his team through to the semi-final.

The first semi-final was another Scandanavian affair with Norway going up against defending champions Finland. Kovalainen led Henning Solberg in the Puntos after the opening lap by just over a second. The McLaren man completed his win by extending the lead over lap two, leaving Petter with work to do again in the second heat - although once again his rival Gronholm found himself at the wheel of his everday race car in the Focus WRC.

It was a fairly equal start between the two former WRC champions and there was little betwee them at the end of lap one with Gronholm little more than half a second ahead. The Finn extended his lead as Solberg got slightly reckless in trying to close the gp, putting Finland through to the final for the second successive year.

The opening heat of the other semi-final saw Button against Schumacher in the Solution F. Button was maybe slightly quicker off the linein the silhuoette racer based on the Vauxhall Astra and with the crowd going wild, Button led at the end of lap one by just two tenths. Into the second lap, Schumacher was closing in and the German took the win on the run to the line to give his team the early advantage.

It came down to Priaulx against Vettel to keep English hopes alive at the wheel of the Focus WRC. The WTCC champion was away quicker at the start. It was even tighter than the first heat at the mid-way point with Priaulx ahead by less than a tenth of a second. However, as was the case in the first heat, the leader at half-way couldn't hold with Vettel winning to put Germany into the final.

Following a quick display from stuntman Terry Grant, it was time for the final - with two-time winners Finland looking to secure another crown and Germany out to claim its first Nations Cup success.

Heat one saw F1 stars past and present do battle with Kovalainen and Schumacher going head-to-head in a repeat of the 2004 Race of Champions semi-final - which the Finn won en-route to taking the crown at the first attempt.

The race took place with the little Puntos and Schumacher stalled at the start to the delight of the Wembley crowd. Schumacher got going just as Kovalainen came round behind him with the two running nose-to-tail before the Finn dived down the inside into turn one to put a lap on the former Ferrari man before giving Finland a one race lead.

For the third race in a row, Gronholm was at the wheel of the Focus as he looked to wrap up the title against Vettel. The Toro Rosso F1 man did a better job of getting off the line than Schumacher and the end of lap one he was only two tenths of a second behind the retiring WRC ace. A storming second lap however saw Vettel storm back to take the final to a tie-break - which would see him go against Kovalainen in the ROC buggies.

Both started well and at half-way Vettel - who didn't even have a driving licence when Kovalainen won the Race of Champions back in 2004 - held the lead by a second. Extending the lead through the second lap, the rookie carried the Germans to success as they lifted the Nations Cup for the first time.

 

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