Father-and-son duo Petter and Oliver Solberg won the 2022 Race of Champions Nations Cup for Norway at Pite Havsbad in Sweden, defeating Team USA’s Jimmie Johnson and Colton Herta.
The best-of-five final began with NASCAR legend Johnson going up against the older Solberg in Polaris RZR side-by-sides.
Johnson started strongly against the two-time World Rallycross Champion. However his Polaris came to a halt early in the race.
Oliver Solberg was then pitted against IndyCar star Colton Herta – a late replacement for the injured Travis Pastrana – in the electric RX2e rallycross car. A brief rubbing of a snowbank meant Herta finished 1.753 seconds behind.
Johnson was given a chance to redeem Team USA in a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport against the younger Solberg, and he did just that, winning by 1.602s.
Olsbergs MSE’s Supercar Lites car was what Herta and Petter Solberg were put in for what would turn out to be the deciding race, with Solberg securing a comfortable win after Herta once again collided with a snow bank.
A Friday storm meant the track they had been racing on was shortened, with the section on ice cut back. The storm also reduced a lot of the practice time available, putting the ball firmly in the off-roaders’ court against the circuit racers.
Before the start of Norway’s journey in the quarterfinals, there was a preliminary round to knock the number of teams from 10 to eight, and the USA, Latin America, Germany, and the eROC All Stars – a team of sim racers – were placed into the group having to qualify.
Latin America won the first race of the event with 2012 Production World Rally Champion and reigning ROC Champion of Champions Benito Guerra beating Johnson in the Polaris. He then beat Herta in the Porsches. The USA won the other two heats though, beating four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, and made the quarterfinals on combined laptimes.
Germany’s line-up of Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher went up against the Esports racers and faced a far tougher challenge than expected.
Lucas Blakeley kicked things off by beating Vettel in the RX2e, but Germany progressed based on time after both teams won two heats.
The quarterfinals introduced the six other teams and drivers more used to competing on snow, including eventual winners Norway.
The Solbergs went up against home favorite Sweden, represented by World RX Champions Mattias Ekström and Timmy Hansen.
The younger Solberg beat Hansen in the Polaris, while Ekström won in Supercar Lites.
Hansen had a tougher time at the wheel of the Porsche, driving into a snowbank at one of the kinks and then getting tail-happy after the final corner and half-spinning as he approached the finish. He ended up stuck sideways across the track.
Norway then went up against Team Nordic, consisting of four-time World RX Champion Johan Kristoffersson and Le Mans 24 Hours legend Tom Kristensen, in the semifinals.
On an evolving and warming track the Solbergs had the advantage with three big wins, and just one consolation victory for Kristensen against Petter Solberg in the Porsche after both clouted the bordering snow banks.
The USA’s path to the final was somewhat unexpected after the team lost both of its quarterfinal heats against Germany when Mick Schumacher was their opposition. But the two Californians had the measure of Vettel in the Supercar Lites rallycross car and the RX2e to push themselves into the semis.
They had the Finns to beat at that stage. An overly cautious Emma Kimiläinen – a late stand-in for F1 driver Valtteri Bottas – got blitzed by Johnson in Supercar Lites, while a tail-happy moment for Herta around one of the hairpins cost him victory against Mika Häkkinen despite the two-time F1 Champion getting sideways as he reached the finish.
A spot in the final was then all but secured for the USA when Johnson and Häkkinen got in the RX2e cars as the latter went into a snowbank, spun and lost 15 seconds before he got going again. Herta and Kimiläinen then took over the cars, and Herta won.
The other teams to fall at the quarterfinal stage were Great Britain and France. GB was put against Finland and was looking competitive until W Series rivals Jamie Chadwick and Kimiläinen were against each other in the Porsches and Chadwick understeered into a snowbank.
France, despite the combined might of World Rally Champions Didier Auriol (a record four-time ROC winner) and Sébastien Loeb, were defeated by Team Nordic, although Loeb did beat Kristoffersson in one of the heats.
All 20 drivers will be back in action on Sunday to compete for individual honors and to be crowned Champion of Champions.