IT’S A simple enough concept: pitch the world’s best racing and rally drivers against one another, using identical cars on the same circuit. But bringing all that together under one roof is as much of a challenge as winning the race itself.
Launched in 1988, in Paris, the first Race of Champions event was held in memory of Henri Toivonen, the Finnish rally driver who died after his Lancia Delta S4 Group B rally car left the road during the 1986 Tour de Corse rally, in Corsica. The accident led to the powerful Group B specification cars being banned by the sport’s governing body.
The founders of the Race of Champions, or RoC as it’s become known, are Michèle Mouton, the French former rally driver, and Fredrik Johnsson, Mouton’s co-director in International Media Productions, an events agency. Their contacts in the world of motor sport helped get the show off the ground.
Its unique parallel race track is purpose built at each host venue, and has visited the likes of China, Germany, Britain and Bangkok, and had an extended stay in Gran Canaria from 1992 to 2003.
Drivers are paired together to represent their home nations in the ROC Nations Cup, and also get to go it alone and gun for glory in the Race of Champions. Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Valentino Rossi, Tom Kristensen, Sebastian Loeb, Colin McRae and Juha Kankkunen are just some of the drivers who have taken part.
But who was won the most titles? Scroll down to see if you know the answer.
The best of the best, fastest of the fast, is… cue drum roll… Didier Auriol. Whether or not that has anything to do with the Frenchman’s former career an an ambulance driver is open to debate; more likely, it’s his tally of one World Rally Championship (in 1994, driving a Toyota Celica GT4) and 20 victories that made Auriol a bit handy behind the wheel.
To date, Auriol (pictured above, right) has won four Race of Champions titles, although all were in Gran Canaria. But don’t think for a moment the competition wasn’t tough; in his four finals, he’s seen off Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, Stig Blomqvist and four-time World Rally Champion Tommi Mäkinen.