Just hours after losing the ‘Champion of Champions’ title to Heikki Kovalainen at the Stade de France in Paris, Sébastien Loeb turned the tables on Saturday by contributing to a French victory in the Race of Champions – Nations Cup, an event that has swiftly established itself as motor sport’s equivalent to the World Cup.
Paired with former F1 driver Jean Alesi, the recently crowned World Rally Champion defeated the Finnish side by a score of three heats to two in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
Race of Champions winner Kovalainen secured victory in his first two matches with Jean Alesi, but Sébastien Loeb thwarted Marcus Grönholm to make it two victories each, leaving Alesi to face Kovalainen one last time in the decisive shootout.
The 62,333 spectators were on their feet, most of them to cheer on the Tricolors, but the duel unfortunately turned short when the Finnish driver was suddenly slowed by a mechanical problem on his Ferrari 360 Modena Challenge.
“In the end, it was a rather lucky win,” acknowledged Alesi after the finish. “But it’s really been something exceptional to be able to race in a stadium like this. So thanks to the organisers for making that possible. Fredrik Johnsson and Michèle Mouton have brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people today.”
“OK, there was an element of luck to our success tonight, but that’s a part of motor sport. I really hope the event takes place again next year. The atmosphere has been fantastic and we had so many supporters,” said Loeb.
“My battery lost all its power for the final race,” lamented defeated finalist Kovalainen, “but it was the only problem of the day, so ‘bravo’ to the technical team.”
Marcus Grönholm was understandably disappointed not to have succeeded in adding a second Finnish win in the Race of Champions – Nations Cup after his country’s win in the inaugural event in 1999. “It was actually more challenging here in the Stade de France than in the Canary Islands where the event has traditionally been held. But it’s a great competition and the idea of coming here was very good.”
The French side reached the final after eliminating their countrymen representing the Playstation French team and Brazil, while Finland defeated neighbours Sweden and the United Kingdom pair on their way to the last round.
Highlights of the event, presented by Citroen, will be featured in High Octane Motorsport on Supersport on the following dates:
14 Dec, 22h30 – CSN / Supersport 2
15 Dec, 05h00 – Supersport 2
15 Dec, 13h00 – CSN / Supersport 2
17 Dec, 09h00 – Supersport 2
20 Dec, 22h30 – Supersport 2