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Kovalainen wins ROC nations cup for Finland 18 Dec 2006

L-R: Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) and team mate Marcus Gronholm (FIN) won the nations title for Finland. Race of Champions, Stade de France, Paris, France, 16 December 2006. © ROC.

Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen clinched the nations cup for Finland at the Race of Champions event on Saturday, alongside team mate and world rally champion Marcus Gronholm. Swedish competitor and former DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom, meanwhile, won the final ROC showdown and was crowned 2006 ‘champion of champions’.

Kovalainen and Gronholm defeated North American Rally champion Travis Pastrana in the final of the nations cup, which sees national teams of world-renowned drivers compete against one another in a variety of machinery. Pastrana drove alone for Team USA, after team mate and Toro Rosso driver Scott Speed injured his hand during last week’s Formula One test in Jerez.

"Marcus and I have been trying to win the ROC-Nations Cup since we first formed a team together in Paris in 2004,” explained Kovalainen, after winning at the Stade de France. “We were determined to do it this year and now we've succeeded. All credit to Travis though. He drove really well and I had to push as hard as I could to beat him in our two heats together in the final.”

Ekstrom, meanwhile, beat world rally driver Sebastien Loeb to clinch the 'champion of champions’ title at the final event, during which the top ‘race’ driver of the day is pitted against the top ‘rally’ driver.

Loeb and Ekstrom competed initially behind the wheel of Citroen Xsara world rally cars. Theoretically this should have given the advantage to Loeb, but Ekstrom sprung a surprise victory, before repeating his win in a Renault Megane to take the title.

Ekstrom won his place in the final after beating fellow DTM runner Bernd Schneider, Kovalainen and recent Toro Rosso tester and Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais in the ‘racing’ knockout races. Loeb, meanwhile, defeated fellow rally drivers Colin McRae, Gronholm and factory Citroen driver Daniel Sordo for his place in the final.

Red Bull’s David Coulthard was the only other Formula One driver in action, driving for the Scottish team alongside McRae. Although Team Scotland beat the English team in the quarter finals of the ROC nations cup, they were beaten by Travis Pastrana’s Team USA in the semi-finals.