The Race of Champions (often abbreviated to ROC) is designed to be the ultimate test of who is the best driver. Other motorsports lead to great debate in which driver really has the best skills when there is so much variability in the cars used, their modifications, tunings, etc. Maybe the second best driver wins the rally because their suspension was dialed in the best? Maybe a radiator had better cooling abilities and avoided a catastrophic overheating event that another car did not?
Although these differences are also a big part of the challenge and excitement in motorsport, where the car and its setup is just as important as the driver's skills, you often wonder just who is the best driver, really, if all else were equal?
In comes the Race of Champions. Founded in 1988 as a event for rally drivers to compete in the same car on the same track, it now includes drivers from other forms of motorsport as well, such as NASCAR and Formula 1.
The Race of Champions is an annual event that is held at different locations across the globe, having started in Paris and even gracing the legendary Nürburgring!
On race day, all drivers take to the course (normally made of asphalt and indoors) with spectators watching. As a member of the audience, you get to see all the action unfold. After this initial race, the best drivers move forward the quarter finals to compete one-on-one, the loser being eliminated until there is only one driver remaining.
The ROC Nations Cup was started in 1999 and is a contest to prove which country has the fastest drivers, and teams of two from their respective countries compete against the others.
Additionally, the Race of Champions is not a stranger to the 21st century's technological prowess, and there is now an eSports version of the event, with sim racers competing against each other! Although this might not be as exciting to watch as the in-person events, it opens up the racing world that is often inaccessible to those with the skills but not the funds to enter competitive driving.
If you are unable to attend the event in person, you can still get in on the action with streaming services. You can also browse past events, not being limited to the here and now of a current race. For example, Motorsport.tv has several clips you can view now if you would like to see some of the past racing. There is even a 2020 documentary called "On The Line: The Race of Champions" that can be rented from Motorsport.tv or Amazon.
In February 2022, the Race of Champions will head to Sweden for a literal change of pace. Instead of the asphalt tracks normally dominating this event, drivers will compete on snow and ice! This will undoubtably challenge drivers to execute their finest skills with precision in a dangerously slippery situation.
Not all drivers have yet been announced, but thus far the roster includes champions of the World Rally and Rallycross, 24 Hour Le Mans, Formula 1 Grand Prix and Formula 1 World, a promising lineup for a spectacular display of skills. In other words, it promises to be motorsport at its finest.
Of course, competing in snow and ice is a rally tradition, and so perhaps 2022's event is a call back to the Race of Champion's roots in 1988, a platform for rally drivers to level their playing field to see who, truly, is the fastest driver.
(Cover photo: Racetrack at a Race of Champions event, al_green, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)