Thursday, August 23, 2007
Updated: December 14, 11:06 AM ET
Pastrana To Compete At Race Of Champions
Defending Rally America champion Travis Pastrana and 2006 NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson have confirmed their participation in this December's The Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium, UK, which will see the London arena transformed into a tarmac racetrack.
The event is the only opportunity for the world's motorsport heroes to race in exactly the same cars on a parallel track, giving thousands of fans the chance to judge who really is the best.
Johnson is coming back as part of Team USA after missing out on last year's event at the Stade de France in Paris, France, due to injury. Despite hurting himself only days before the race, the 31-year-old was still there to cheer on teammate and fellow American Pastrana.
"When I got the invite to race again I jumped at the opportunity," said Johnson who drives for NASCAR team Hendrick Motorsports. "I love competition, especially against the best. The Race of Champions event is so unique and gives me the chance to compete against the best drivers in the world from all forms of racing and in vehicles I normally don't get a chance to drive. I want to push myself and see where I stack up against everyone else and this is a perfect opportunity to do it. I also like the aspect of representing both NASCAR and the USA, which is very important to me."
Eight-time X Games Champion and 2007 ESPY action sports athlete of the year, Pastrana, will also return for a second attempt at the ROC Nations Cup crown after last year saw him finish runner-up to Finland's Heikki Kovalainen (Renault F1) and Marcus Grönholm (Ford World Rally).
The American rally and motocross star delivered a stunning performance, fighting solo all the way to the final after Johnson's replacement, Formula 1's Scott Speed, also injured himself the day before the event leaving Pastrana without a teammate. The 23-year-old triumphed against the likes of Formula 1 star David Coulthard and World Rally Champion Colin McRae along the way before losing out to the Finns.
"Last year was such an amazing learning experience for me that I'm really looking forward to this year," said Pastrana, currently second in the Rally America Championship. "It's such an honor and privilege to compete against such talented drivers. I think Jimmie and I will be up to the challenge and ready to bring it home for the USA."
Both drivers are confident they can make up for missing out on last year's Nations Cup title as well having The Race of Champions 2007 individual title firmly in their sights.
The two champions hold extensive experience in two and four-wheeled racing, which will prove invaluable in adapting to The Race of Champions' various cars. Johnson started his career in motorcycles, graduating to off-road buggy and truck racing before moving to NASCAR, whilst Pastrana's incredible track record of freestyle motocross prowess now includes serious rallying credentials as well.
"With Jimmie and Travis, we will be representing all that is special and exciting about American motorsports," said Team USA coordinator Jim Hancock. "They possess amazing talents across a whole range of motorsports and that is exactly the kind of experience they will bring to bear to be competitive within the unique format of the Race of Champions and the Nations Cup. They are gunning for a win and will have a great time in the true spirit of the event, celebrating motorsports together with the art and craft of driving."
Fredrik Johnsson, President of event organizer's IMP, said: "A fighting spirit is something we really appreciate at The Race of Champions. Jimmie and Travis are two drivers that have shown time and time again in their careers that they are true fighters and we cannot wait to see them back on track, together, in London this winter."
Tickets are available for purchase through www.raceofchampions.com
The ROC was created in 1988 by Fredrik Johnsson and the world's best woman rally driver Michèle Mouton.
The premise is simple: using identical equipment and track, drivers can prove themselves based on talent alone. The drivers compete in a series of knockout heats in their own division to determine their class champion. Then, in a shoot-out to determine who is the master of motorsport, the winners go head-to-head in a super final. The victor is rewarded with the title "The Champion of Champions".
Drivers confirmed for 2007 include:
-Reigning Rally America Champion Travis Pastrana
-Seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher
-Formula One star Jenson Button
-Reigning World Touring Car Champion, Andy Priaulx
-Red Bull Racing's David Coulthard
-Former World Rally Champion, Colin McRae
-Triple Champ Car Champion Sébastien Bourdais
-Seven-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen
-Former DTM Champion Mattias Ekström
-Reigning NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson
This traditional end-of-season showdown attracts spectators from across Europe. For three years the event, held at the Stade de France in Paris, has attracted well over 50,000 spectators each year.
Action from the Race of Champions 2006 was broadcast in over 200 countries and watched by more than 186 million viewers.