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By Karl Williams


Tuesday, December 2, 2008.


After weeks of negotiation, Britain’s two most successful racers of 2008 – Lewis Hamilton and Chris Hoy – will go head-to-head at Wembley Stadium next week.


Lewis Hamilton, the first Black and the youngest ever Formula 1 World Champion will face the triple Beijing Olympic Gold Medalist Chris Hoy in a sporting challenge at The Race of Champions on a parallel track.


The ultimate end-of-season racing celebration, The Race of Champions pits the best competitors from the world of two and four-wheeled motorsport together to show off their abilities on an asphalt track constructed on top of Wembley’s famous pitch.  


Hamilton will not however, be driving his Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, but all the same a rather humble but sprightly Mercedes-Benz road car, while Hoy takes to the saddle of a bike. Starting side-by-side on a tight and twisty course, which is alien to machines and drivers, the two stars, will race around the circuit in the ultimate test of man and machine.  


This chase will be the warn-up act of the pre- show entertainment, running before The ROC Nations Cup begins. Not one to disappoint, Hamilton will entertain the masses with some of the skills and trills with a demonstration run in his championship- winning Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. 


For those who may need a reminder, this all takes place on the same day as the British public decide who will be the 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, which allows those still sitting on the fence one more chance to see both men perform in public as the year ends.


The award will present the first opportunity for British Motorsport fans to gather and pay tribute to the achievements of Hamilton following his last- gasp championship heroics in the Brazilian GP. Both Hamilton and Hoy will depart Wembley late afternoon to travel to Liverpool for the Awards ceremony.    


Wembley Stadium will be transformed for The Race of Champions F1 stars, superbike champions, NASCAR racers and rally aces will battle one another but, following Britain’s success in the Beijing Olympics and Hamilton’s F1 World Championship victory, Fredrik Johnsson, President of event organisers IMP, wanted to combine the two for 2008. 


“Ever since we created The Race of Champions 20 years ago, we’ve been putting the greatest racers in the world against each other,” Johnsson said.


“With Britain’s fantastic performance in Beijing, especially in cycling, we thought about how we could include that in the event and when Lewis won the F1 World Championship it was just perfect.” 


The Race of Champions event will be made up of two separate competitions – The ROC Nations Cup and The Race of Champions.  Each competition pits drivers against each other in a head-to-head knockout format; with equal equipment ensuring races are won and lost on talent alone.  The ROC Nations Cup features drivers paired into teams based on their nationality. The teams then fight head-to-head against each other in knockout competition.


Last year Team Germany (Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel) beat Team Finland (Marcus Grönholm and Heikki Kovalainen) in the final.  The Race of Champions is a straightforward knockout competition, where 16 drivers go head-to-head until the champion is decided. In last year’s Final, Mattias Ekström beat Michael Schumacher in the third race of a best-of-three battle. 


Amongst the other championship drivers taking part in the show are David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Andy Priaulx, Eight-time Le Mans 24 Hour Winner Tom Kristensen (Team Scandinavia) Seven-time F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher (Team Germany).


Hoy who admits that he is a big motor racing fan says that he has seen The Race of Champions on television in the past but that to be there in the flesh and competing this time around will be fantastic. 


“I can kick out about two and a half brake horsepower so that’s not going to quite match his car but I think they’ll make the race as close as possible and I’ll be giving it absolutely everything; I’m really looking forward to it,”  he says.


Hamilton also believes the event will be something very special.


“I’ve done F1 demonstration runs away from race tracks before, but Wembley Stadium’s completely different, the atmosphere is going to be crazy,” he says.  


“It’s going to be a great way to end a fantastic year, and I’m really looking forward to putting on a show to thank the fans from all over the world and my fantastic British fans for all their support. I get so much from the fans and this is a great opportunity for me to give something back.”


“I will be leaving Wembley prior to the actual Race of Champions final in order to make it to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, but putting on the demonstration is a great opportunity for me to give something back.”


For more information, please see www.raceofchampions.com


Tickets for are on sale now by calling 0844 412 1743, or online at Adult prices start at £18 and child tickets at £9. 


Karl Williams is a London-based freelance journalist and motoring correspondent for The New Black Magazine.

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com  

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