Racing lines: two Sebastiens created magic as WRC's new era began

Racing lines: two Sebastiens created magic as WRC’s new era began

For fans of a certain vintage, the RoC will always be a non-points-scoring Formula 1 curtain-raiser held at Brands Hatch on cold, wet March days back in the distant past. But the last Brands RoC ran back in 1983. Since 1988, when rally hero Michèle Mouton and Fredrik Johnsson dreamed up a new idea, the name has stood for something entirely different: a head-to-head knockout competition for star drivers racing identical cars. 

Most often held in a stadium (Wembley was a popular UK host), it has now been reinvented as a snow and ice event held on parallel tracks with a crossover on the frozen Baltic Sea in Pite Havsbad.

Inevitably, a focus on sustainability is a major part of the relaunch, with drivers competing this weekend in the RX2e electric rallycrosser; RX Supercar Lites running on 100% fossil-free biofuel; the new 1000bhp-plus FC1-X electric SUV; and, for something a bit more traditional (but surely tricky to handle on ice), a squad of Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsports. 

As for the cast of drivers picked from every major code of motorsport, the list is astonishing. Racing’s biggest stars always used to love turning out for the old end-of-season stadium thrashes, and the attraction clearly still holds, both for the individual RoC on Sunday and the Nations Cup on Saturday, when teams of two do battle for the honour of their countries.

Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher will represent Germany, echoing an old partnership from the days when Mick’s old man Michael was an avid RoC competitor. Finland boasts Alfa Romeo F1 ace Valtteri Bottas and two-time world champion Mika Häkkinen, while others on the list include seven-time Nascar champion Jimmie Johnson (US), four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Hélio Castroneves (Brazil) and nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen (Denmark).

And the British team? F1 and RoC veteran David Coulthard and two-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, who will be making her event debut. 

It’s all good-natured fun, of course, although once they stick their helmets on…

The blacktop racers will be up against it, but what price a Monte-RoC double for Loeb? The legend is on a roll.