Loeb equals record with fourth Race of Champions win

WRC points leader Loeb beat four-time F1 Champion Sebastian Vettel over four heats in the final

Race of Champions Ice + Snow 4-6/02/22

Sébastien Loeb defeated Sebastian Vettel in the final of Race of Champions Snow + Ice at Pite Havsbad in Piteå, Sweden to claim a record-equalling fourth title in the event.

In a best-of-five final showdown, Loeb beat the four-time Formula 1 Champion in the opening two heats, but a rare mistake in the third race behind the wheel of the all-electric RX2e rallycross car opened the door for a Vettel fightback.

That moved the decider on to a fourth heat, this time in Polaris RZR side-by-side vehicles and Vettel held an early advantage. But Loeb dropped the hammer in the second half of the two-lap contest to win by 0.786 seconds.

The duo made the final after winning their respective sides of the competition bracket, with Vettel emerging from an all-star cast of circuit racers, while Loeb progressed from a collective of off-road racing legends.

Vettel made light work of W Series racer Emma Kimiläinen early on, before beating Colton Herta at the quarterfinal stage.

Sebastian Vettel_RX2e

Both won one heat apiece, with IndyCar racer Herta missing out on a cumulative time tiebreaker.

Vettel then beat ROC regular Tom Kristensen 2-0, with the nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner’s RX2e car slowing to a halt in the first heat, then finishing over two seconds behind Vettel in their second head-to-head.

Loeb defeated his long-time World Rally and World Rallycross rival Petter Solberg as well as his son Oliver, with the second of his two contests against the latter ending in an absolute dead heat, to ensure that neither of Saturday’s Nations Cup victors would have a chance to contest the main event final.

He then faced off against Mattias Ekström in a repeat of the 2006 ROC final (which was won by Ekström), who was drawn on the off-road racing side of the bracket thanks to his 2016 World RX title and more recent Extreme E and Dakar Rally experience.

Loeb had the upper hand early on, winning the first heat in the rear-wheel-drive Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, but as both returned to more familiar territory for the second contest in the Supercar Lites rallycross machine it was Ekström who drew level as he won by 2.020s.

Mattias Ekstrom_RX2e

Ekström’s faster time from the opening two races gave him lane choice the the best-of-three decider, and he opted for the same inside lane that he’d won from in the previous heat, although with both drivers having to cover a lap of each side of the track it meant any perceived advantage is negligible.

Sure enough, Loeb won despite Ekström’s selection, with the Swede brushing a snow bank as he pushed hard to overhaul Loeb.

Ahead of his battle with Loeb, Ekström defeated the ROC’s first four-time winner Didier Auriol by nearly six seconds. The 1994 WRC champion also jumped the start of the race, in what was his 11th ROC appearance.

Another notable name to fall early on in the off-road side of the bracket was 2012 Production World Rally Champion Benito Guerra Jr who won the last ROC in 2019. He was defeated by Oliver Solberg straight away.

World RX rivals Timmy Hansen and Johan Kristoffersson had a chance to relive their 2021 title fight early on, but it would prove to be an easy win for Kristoffersson after Hansen hit a snow bank and crossed lanes, costing him when he looked set for victory.



Father-and-son combination Petter and Oliver beat IndyCar stars for Norway

That set up another World RX rematch for Kristoffersson, this time with Ekström who got the better hand to make up for his 2020 rallycross defeat.

On the circuit racers side of the bracket, XE podium finisher Jamie Chadwick defeated Mick Schumacher early on, only to fall at the hands of Herta in the round of 16 after sliding into a snow bank.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup series Champion Jimmie Johnson, also a former off-road racer and finalist in the Nations Cup alongside Herta, beat F1 Champion Mika Häkkinen in his opening race but was then bettered by Kristensen on a tiebreaker.

Loeb’s first win at ROC came in 2003, coincidentally the last time the event took place on loose surfaces prior to 2022, with the majority of editions taking place in stadiums since. He also won at the Stade de France in Paris in 2005, and London’s Wembley stadium three years later.

After storms reduced the track to a shortened, beach-only affair for the Nations Cup side competition on Saturday, better conditions opened up the course to include a section of frozen Baltic Sea for Sunday’s showpiece competition to go along with the snow-covered land element.