The Race of Champions, an annual exhibition event featuring a selection of the world’s best racing and rally drivers, will take place in Beijing’s ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic stadium this November.
The event organisers, International Media Productions, decided to switch the event from Wembley Stadium in London, host venue for the past two years, after reaching a deal with Great Gate, the Bird’s Nest’s operations and management company. Great Gate is thought to be paying a staging fee in the region of US$2 million to bring the event to Asia for the first time.
IMP President Fredrik Johnsson revealed that Beijing’s bid for the event saw off at least four other pitches. He said: “After the incredible Olympics last year, Beijing’s candidacy was difficulty to ignore.” The news will come as a relief to Great Gate, as the Bird’s Nest has sat largely dormant since the Olympic closing ceremony in August last year.
However Johnsson has promised that the event will return to Europe, where it has been staged every year since its inception in 1988. “The people there [at Wembley] were great to work with and helped us put on two fantastic events,” he said. This year wll be the Race of Champions’ first year outside Europe, but we will definitely be back soon.”
Johnsson created the ROC format with female rally driver Michele Mouton. The competition comprises two parts: an individual competition, in which all drivers race identical machinery and the Nation’s Cup.
The announcement of the deal coincided with a significant change to the event’s format. For the first time the competition will take place on two weekday evenings rather than at the weekend. This year’s event is scheduled for 3rd and 4th November, two days after the end of the Formula One season in Abu Dhabi. The hope is that more current Formula One drivers will be encouraged to attend. The 2008 event was marked by appearances from Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard and Jenson Button.