CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Nov. 27, 2002)—While the majority of employees at Hendrick Motorsports will take the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday at home with family and friends, there are at least two individuals with plans to do something a little different—represent their country.
Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson join World Superbike champion Colin Edwards in Europe for the Race of Champions Nations Cup, an annual event pitting the world’s best rally, motorcycle and circuit racers against one another in head-to-head competition. The trio will represent the United States against teams from Germany, Italy and Spain, just to name a few.
“I love the format of the event,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. “Pitting the best drivers in the world from all forms of motor sports against each other in a head-to-head elimination contest will be exciting.”
A number of recently crowned champions are among the international cast, including this year’s World Rally champ Marcus Gronholm (Finland), CART’s Cristiano da Matta (Brazil), Formula 3000’s Sebastien Bourdais (France), 250cc MotoGP champion Marco Melandri (Italy), European Rally victor Renato Travaglia (Italy), European Touring Cars champion Fabrizio Giovanardi (Italy), World Enduro’s Kari Tiainen (Finland), 125cc motocross champ Mickael Maschio (France) and Speedway GP winner Tony Rickardsson (Sweden).
Rounding out the rosters will be Formula One stars Fernando Alonso (Spain) and Nick Heidfeld (Germany), CART driver and former Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack (Sweden), as well as MotoGP riders Carlos Checa (Spain) and Alex Barros (Brazil).
The Race of Champions was conceived, and remained for the first 11 years, a rally event that invited drivers to race head-to-head, side-by-side in identical cars on a figure-eight parallel track. The premise was simple: with the same equipment and circuit, competitors could prove themselves based on talent alone.
In 1999, promoters, seeing the potential for a World Cup-style event, introduced the Race of Champions Nations Cup as a means of expanding that unique concept to other disciplines of motor sports, while allowing racers to compete for their countries. In this event, three-person teams—comprised of a nation’s best rally (or off-road), motorcycle and circuit racers—face off against one another in a series of one-lap heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals leading up to the finale on Saturday, Nov. 30.
The event is hosted by the Circuito Ciudad Deportiva rally circuit on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria and televised in more than 180 countries. In the United States, the event will be carried on ESPN, FOX Sports World and FOX Sports. Check local listings.
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- Nov 15, 2003