The 25th Race Of Champions, being held for the first time in Bangkok this weekend, will see winners from the world’s premier motorsports competing against each other in a series of identical vehicles, including KTM X-Bows and specially manufactured buggies, to prove their driving skills with no technological differences in the machines.
Thanks to an ambitious collaboration between the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), Red Bull and Singha Corporation, motorsport fans in the Kingdom will no longer be confined to watching the exploits of heroes like Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel via satellite.
The seven-time champion and recently retired (again) Schumacher and triple F1 winner Vettel will be among the motorsport superstars in Bangkok for the Red Bull Singha Race Of Champions, which takes place at Rajamangala National Stadium from Friday, December 14 to Sunday, December 16.
They will be joined by Jorge Lorenzo (MotoGP), Sebastien Ogier (World Rally Championship), Romain Grosjean (Formula One), Ryan Hunter-Reay (IndyCar Series), Jamie Whincup (V8 Supercar), Mick Doohan (MotoGP), David Coulthard (Formula One), Andy Priaulx (World Touring Car) and Tom Kristensen (24 Hours of Le Mans).
The racing starts today (December 14) with the ROC Asia Cup. On Saturday the ROC Nations Cup features top racers from eight countries competing on behalf of their homeland, when German superstars Vettel and Schumacher will defend their title. The final round will be held on Sunday (December 16), with the overall winner crowned Champion of Champions.
The Bangkok racing will be broadcast live to the US, Europe and Asia, and the event expected to draw about 19 million viewers.
Michael de Santiesteban, a representative of Red Bull’s owner and one of the people credited with bringing the race to Thailand, said: “The beauty of ROC is that it gathers so many race car champions in one place. The racers compete against each other in identical cars, giving the audience the chance to witness the drivers’ skill, rather than the technological differences in their cars.”
Kanokphand Chulakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, said “This is the second time that the ROC event has been staged outside Europe. And Thailand has never before seen a grand-scale, international competition like this.’’
Red Bull’s Mr de Santiesteban also noted that the all-star competition could be regarded as a stepping stone for Thailand toward a more momentous race – a Formula One grand prix.
According Mr de Santiesteban, the idea of bringing a Formula One race to Bangkok has always been a dream of Red Bull owner Chalerm Yoovidhya. But while Red Bull’s Formula One team just clinched its third consecutive World Championship title, the dream of holding the race in Bangkok remains unfulfilled.
Mr de Santiesteban says Mr Chalerm wishes to honour His Majesty King Bhumibol while carrying on the project initiated more than 70 years ago by Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh, the country’s first and only grand prix winner, to host a grand prix in Bangkok. The prince’s dream was shattered when World War II broke out.
“We were in the midst of Formula One strategic planning when we were presented with the opportunity to host ROC,’’ Mr de Santiesteban said. “As it’s a major international event, we decided that it should be a joint collaboration between the government and the private sector to make the best case that Thailand, as host, is not second to anyone.’’
The Bangkok track for the event was designed on site by Michele Mouton, the only woman to win the World Rally Championship. The organisers flew in a team of scrutineers from Europe to make sure all vehicles meet FIA standard, and security around the event has to be meticulously checked to ensure driver and crowd safety.
The distance between spectators and the track, the thickness of protective barriers, having quality medical crews on hand, and knowing the distance to nearby hospitals have been among the organisers’ priorities.
Other than the race itself, the event will also feature a great number of fun-filled activities from major sponsors. Starting from Wednesday, the SAT’s ground around the stadium will be turned into a free motor festival, which will run until December 16.
For ticket-buying fans, race nights will feature pre-show events inside the stadium from 6pm onwards. Highlights include demonstration runs in the title-winning Red Bull Racing F1 car by three-time champ Vettel and a parade on a Yamaha motorbike by MotoGP king Lorenzo.