Miami, Florida - Former Formula One driver and 2015 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya has taken the Race of Champions trophy for the first time in an epic shoot-out at the Marlins Park baseball stadium.
His win was overshadowed, however, by Sebastian Vettel’s heroic solo drive to take the two-man Nations Cup after his Team Germany partner Pascal Wehrlein was advised by doctors to withdraw, following a huge crash on Saturday.
In the final best-of-three showdown Montoya faced off against Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen. It was the Dane’s 15th consecutive Race of Champions appearance – equaling the record set by rally legend Stig Blomqvist – and his fifth final (although he’s never won) but it didn’t even go the distance as Montoya took the honours in his home town with two straight wins.
The hard way
Formula One stars Felipe Massa and David Coulthard were the losing semi-finalists; Massa had to give best to Montoya – also in straight sets – after incurring a time penalty for hitting a wall, while Kristensen dealt with the Scottish maestro. That win came the hard way though, without any help from penalties for Coulthard.
The most exciting quarter-final saw Kristensen beat 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button in the third and deciding race by just 0.06s, while Coulthard knocked out Nascar champion Kyle Busch and Montoya broke Travis Pastrana’s unbeaten run with two straight wins, ending local fans’ hopes of an American winner. Montoya, meanwhile, got the best of an all-Brazilian battle with three-times Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves.
Defending Race of Champions title-holder Sebastian Vettel, annoyed with himself for not even having made it out of the group stages on Saturday and without a partner for the two-man Nations Cup after Wehrlein’s withdrawal, stormed into the Sunday programme with a point to prove – and prove it he did.
He started by beating Britain’s Jenson Button with straight wins and David Coulthard 2-1; then he disposed of Team Colombia’s Montoya and Gabby Chaves, and finally beat Nascar champions, brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch, in four straight races, to take the title.