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THE ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN: The Race of Champions

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October 28, 2004

THE ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN: The Race of Champions

THE ULTIMATE SHOWDOWN: The Race of Champions

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October 29, 2004 Since 1988 The Race of Champions has invited the best in all the world motorsport series to compete in a unique event where the competitors all drive a range of identical cars in different conditions. The event has been dominated by rally drivers, with their all-round abilities on different surfaces and ability to quickly adapt to new cars - this year though, the event has attracted reigning Formula One Champion Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher will front up in Paris on December 4-5 to take on newly crowned World Rally Champion, Sebastien Loeb, who is also the reigning Race of Champions title holder, having beaten fellow rally-ace Marcus Gronholm to the title last year.

The event will be held in front of 60,000 spectators and on TV in 198 countries in the massive Stade de France in Paris, on a special race track.

The competition cars include the Citroen Xsara WRC that not only took Loeb to his title but which has also gifted the manufacturer's title to Citroen for two years in succession, as well as the Ferrari 360 Modena Challenge, the 400 bhp racing version of the top road-going Ferrari, and the ROC-Car, the Rally Raid buggy built specifically for the Race of the Champions.

"It is not often that rally drivers and racing drivers get a chance to compete against each other, and on a neutral track, said Loeb. "It will make a great show. Rally drivers are very adaptable because of all the surfaces we use, but the F1 drivers are very precise. It will be exciting."

In addition to Loeb, the rally world will be represented by legend Colin McRae, who is partnered in the UK team by F1's David Coulthard, and double world rally champion Marcus Gronholm. NASCAR is sending two of its most competitive drivers, champion Jeff Gordon and regular race winner Jimmie Johnson, who took his 5th victory of the season at Loewes Motorspeedway this month.

"In this Olympic year, this is our chance to compete for our country," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. "The atmosphere surrounding the event is relaxed and fun, but every driver who straps on a helmet wants to win. In this case, we want to win for ourselves and for our country." Click to view larger image Gret arena action

"Jeff (Gordon), Colin (Edwards) and I had a blast in 2002 and when the opportunity presented itself for Jeff and me to go back and compete for Team USA, we just couldn't pass it up," said Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. "Fredrik (Johnsson, president of International Media Productions) continues to bring together the best drivers in the world. We're looking forward to the challenge and we hope to regain the Nation's Cup."

"This event has the opportunity to become a point of international focus without parallel in motorsports, and its potential for growth in the U.S. is remarkable," said Jim Hancock, event promoter in the U.S. "With Gordon and Johnson on board, the 75 million fans of NASCAR now have the chance to see their best drivers go head-to-head with the world's best." French spectators will also have another local hero to cheer on. Former Ferrari F1 driver and Mercedes-Benz DTM Touring Car ace Jean Alesi is Loeb's partner in the French team for the Nations Cup - a multinational competition for pairs of racing and rally drivers to challenge rival countries over a series of races.

"It is so exciting to be in the French team and with our new World Champion," admitted Alesi. "I think it is a strong combination, especially having SŽbastien in the team. To perform at the Stade de France is going to be really interesting. All those fans and running the cars in a stadium. It will be unique."

Alesi's confirmation comes at the same time as that of Heikki Kovalainen, who was crowned champion of The World Series by Nissan this weekend. He will join Marcus Gronholm in the Finnish team.

The 2004 Teams

Germany: MICHAEL SCHUMACHER; ARMIN SCHWARZ France: SEBASTIEN LOEB; JEAN ALESI USA: JEFF GORDON; JIMMIE JOHNSON United Kingdom: DAVID COULTHARD; COLIN MCRAE Sweden: KENNY BRACK; MATTIAS EKSTROM Finland: HEIKKI KOVALAINEN; MARCUS GRONHOLM

The History

2003 Canary Islands

Winner: Sebastien Loeb Finalist: Marcus Gronholm Semi-finalists: G. Panizzi - F. Duval Nations' Cup: All Stars (C. Da Matta/G.Panizzi/F. Nieto) Nations' Cup Finalists: Spain (O. Servia/F. Alonso/E. Alzamora)

2002 Canary Islands

Winner: Marcus Gronholm Finalist: Sebastien Loeb Semi-finalists: F. Duval - H. Rovanpera Nations' Cup: USA (J.Gordon/J.Johnson/C. Edwards) Nations' Cup Finalists: Italy (R. Travaglia/F. Giovanardi/M.Melandri)

2001 Canary Islands

Winner: Harri Rovanpera (F) Finalist: Armin Schwarz (D) Semi-finalists: Francois Duval (B) Alister Mc Rae (GB) Legends: Stig Blomqvist (S) Nations' Cup: Spain (J.puras/F.Alonso/R.Xaus) Nations' Cup Finalists: All Stars(H.Rovanpera/T.Kristensen/T.Bayliss)

2000 Canary Islands

Winner: Tommi Makinen (SF) Finalist: Marcus Gronholm (SF) Semi-finalists: Gilles Panizzi (FR) Didier Auriol (FR) Int. Rally Masters: Armin Schwarz (D) Legends: Stig Blomqvist (S) Nations' Cup: France (G. Panizzi/Y. Muller/ R.Laconi) Nations' Cup Finalists: Italy (M. Biasion/E. Pirro/V. Rossi)

1999 Canary Islands

Winner: Didier Auriol (FR) Finalist: Tommi Makinen (SF) Semi-finalists: Carlos Sainz (E) & Armin Schwarz (D) Int. Rally Masters: Armin Schwarz (D) Legends: Stig Blomqvist (S) Nations' Cup: Finland (T. MŠkinen/JJ Lehto/K. Tiainen) Nations' Cup Finalists: Spain (C. Sainz/M. Gene/P. Riba)

1998 Canary Islands

Winner: Colin McRae (GB) Finalist: Alister McRae (GB) Semi-finalists: Didier Auriol (FR) & Carlos Sainz (E) Int. Rally Masters: Alister McRae (GB) Classic Masters: Miki Biasion (I)

1997 Canary Islands

Winner: Carlos Sainz (E) Finalist: Colin McRae (GB) Semi-finalists: Didier Auriol (F) & Jarmo Kytolehto (SF) Int. Rally Masters: Jarmo Kytolehto (SF) Classic Masters: Walter Rohrl (D)

1996 Canary Islands

Winner: Didier Auriol (FR) Finalist: Francois Delecour (FR) Semi-finalists: Carlos Sainz (E) & Stig Blomqvist (S) Int. Rally Masters: Flavio Alonso (E)

1995 Canary Islands

Winner: Francois Delecour (FR) Finalist: Colin McRae (GB) Semi-finalists: Didier Auriol (FR) & Andrea Aghini (I) Int. Rally Masters: Andrea Aghini (I) Classic Masters: Marc Duez (B)

1994 Canary Islands

Winner: Didier Auriol (FR) Finalist: Stig Blomqvist (S) Semi-finalists: Juha Kankkunen (SF) & Armin Schwarz (D) Int. Rally Masters: Timo Salonen (SF) Classic Masters: Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)

1993 Canary Islands

Winner: Didier Auriol (FR) Finalist: Carlos Sainz (E) Semi-finalists: Francois Delecour (FR) & Ari Vatanen (SF) Int. Rally Masters: Stig Blomqvist (S)

1992 Canary Islands

Winner: Andrea Aghini (I) Finalist: Colin McRae (GB) Semi-finalists: Juha Kankkunen (SF) & Carlos Sainz (E) Int. Rally Masters: Flavio Alonso (E)

1991 Madrid

Winner: Juha Kankkunen (SF) Finalist: Didier Auriol (FR) Semi-finalists: Stig Blomqvist (S) & Ari Vatanen (SF) Int. Rally Masters: J.M. Bardolet (E)

1990 Barcelona

Winner: Stig Blomqvist (S) Finalist: Tommi Makinen (SF) Semi-finalists: Carlos Sainz (E) & Dario Cerrato (I) Int. Rally Masters: Kenneth Eriksson (S)

1989 Nurburgring

Winner: Stig Blomqvist (S) Finalist: Walter Ršhrl (D) Semi-finalists: Marc Duez (B) & Sepp Haider (A)

1988 Monthlery

Winner: Juha Kankkunen (SF) Finalist: Timo Salonen (SF) Semi-finalists: Walter Ršhrl (D) & Stig Blomqvist (S)

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