The Race Of Champions, a knock-out format event that started off as a celebration of the World Rally Championship and one of its most famous names that now attracts drivers from across motorsport, will run in Scandinavia for the first time next year.
In January 2022, stars from Formula 1, the Le Mans 24 Hours, touring cars and rallying will head to Pite Havsbad in northern Sweden to race a variety of vehicles on a circuit that will be located on a frozen stretch of the Baltic Sea – meaning many will be competing on ice and snow for the very first time in their careers.
Previous winners of the ROC include drivers well-versed in those conditions, such as WRC champions Didier Auriol, Sébastien Loeb, Stig Blomqvist and Juha Kankkunen. Only one circuit racer joins them on the list of drivers who have become Champion of Champions at the ROC more than once.
“After organizing the Race Of Champions in some of the most prestigious venues like the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, Stade de France in Paris, Wembley Stadium and London’s Olympic Stadium, it is a huge honor to be able to bring our event to my home country Sweden for the first time,” said Race Of Champions president and co-founder Fredrik Johnsson.
“At ROC we are always looking for ways to put new exciting tests in front of some of the world’s top race drivers. In the past, that might have been a very tight track inside a stadium, but this time we will be able to build a longer, wider, more spectacular track.
“The event will be unlike anything we are used to seeing and be one of the ultimate tests of a driver’s car control.”
Before switching to a stadium-based format, the ROC was for many years based on Gran Canaria – where the European Rally Championship holds one of its rallies each year – and has also been to the Bushy Park circuit that has been used as a stage for Rally Barbados.
“After the event we will keep the Race Of Champions track open until the end of each winter season for unique ROC driving experiences for both corporate and private clients developed in a long-term partnership with Pite Havsbad Group,” added Johnsson.
The venue has completed a long-term agreement with ROC, making rally drivers the firm favorites for victory in the coming years.
WRC2 event winner Benito Guerra was Champion of Champions in 2019, with Mattias Ekström the last off-road expert to win before that in 2009 – although he had yet to make rallycross his main job at that point.
Three-time World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson has already driven the proposed 2022 ROC track while temperatures are below freezing, and described it as “a true challenge but I think all the drivers will love it”.