Former Formula 1 driver, and 2015 Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya has triumphed to become the Champion of Champions at the Race Of Champions this weekend, defeating Tom Kristensen in the individual final.
Montoya was competing at ROC for the first time, and was in group B. He made it out of the group stages and quickly set about beating Travis Pastrana in the quarter-finals, defeating Felipe Massa in controversial fashion in the semi-finals, before beating ROC regular Kristensen in straight heats in the final.
In true ROC style it didn’t take long for the drama to start, as Mercedes protégé and Sauber 2017 driver Pascal Wehrlein suffered a scary-looking crash. The German rolled his three-wheeled Polaris Slingshot car after colliding with a barrier and then Massa after the finish line. Wehrlein, 2014 ROC runner-up, and his passenger were both unhurt. Though the crash did result in Wehrlein being knocked out in the group stages. Montoya and Massa were the successful members of Group b who made it through to the quarter finals.
— Race Of Champions (@RaceOfChampions) January 21, 2017
It didn’t take long for the next serious bit of drama to happen as reigning Champion of Champions Sebastian Vettel was denied the opportunity to progress out of the group stages. Vettel, who has never left ROC without taking away one of the trophies, was in group A, though the German lost his first heat. He fought back to win his next two heats, but ultimately it wasn’t enough as in the final race against Pastrana in the rallycross car, he was beaten in a drag race to the line by the American. Pastrana and Helio Castroneves went through from group A
Group C was a clean sweep for McLaren ambassador and former F1 driver Jenson Button. The Britt edged out James Hinchcliffe and NASCAR Cup driver Kyle Busch before once again beating the last member of group C Tony Kanaan. Finally, group D saw 2014 Campion of Champions David Coulthard go through. He and fellow event regular Kristensen ensured they’d advance with two early wins each over NASCAR’s Kurt Busch and IndyCar’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, before Coulthard took the top spot in the group with a win over the Dane.
A closely-matched battle between Montoya and Pastrana opened the quarter finals, in a best-of-three format, the Colombian edged Pastrana by two tenths in the first race, and then denied him a decider with a one-tenth victory in the rematch. He wasn’t the only member of group B to go through as well, as Massa also went through in straight heats, comfortably besting Castroneves.
The Button and Kristensen match-up was the first one to go to a decider heat, as both drivers won a race apiece. Kristensen, however was able to win the final heat to book a place in the semi-finals prevailing by less than a tenth over Button. While the last quarter-final went Coulthard’s way, with the Scotsman dispatching Kyle Busch over two heats.
Massa and Montoya went up against each other in the first semi- final, which ended under controversial circumstances. In the first heat, Massa was ahead at the line, but the Brazilian had hit the barrier on exit of the final corner and was soon handed a five-second penalty that handed the win and advantage to Montoya. Montoya then prevailed in the second battle by just 0.076s. As the situation was ultimately explained to Massa, the Brazilian was visibly annoyed, believing he should’ve gotten away with a yellow flag warning for the infringement.
“I hit once, it’s part of the rules. I lost time hitting the walls, I didn’t want to hit it. I don’t accept that,” he said, storming off.
The second semi-final was less controversial but no less dramatic, as Kristensen faced off against Coulthard. Having lost to Coulthard in the group stages, Kristensen came up trumps this time and defeated the Scotsman in straight heats to ensure his spot in the final against Montoya.
The opening heat of the final showdown between Montoya and Kristensen was run in the Olsbergs MSE-built GRC Lites car, with Montoya taking first blood. Kristensen, who had lost to Vettel in straight heats in the 2015 final, was then once again denied a decider. The Le Mans champion ran Montoya close in the KTM X-Bow, but Montoya won the race, with a 0.845s gap over the line to be crowned the Champion of Champions.
Montoya will now be in action with fellow Columbian driver Gabby Chaves in the ROC nations cup tomorrow.
Feature Image Credit: R.O.C Press Release