Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher took a fourth consecutive victory for Team Germany in the Nations' Cup element of the Race of Champions in Dusseldorf this evening.
The Formula 1 duo beat Team Great Britain in a repeat of last year's final, with British Touring Car champion Jason Plato and three-time World Touring Car champion Andy Priaulx not quite able to defeat the host country's heroes at the end.
The best-of-three final came down to a decisive race between Priaulx and Schumacher in buggies after the German had beaten Plato and the Channel Islander had seen off Vettel in the first two parts. There was just 0.06sec splitting Priaulx and Schumacher after the first lap of the showdown, but Schumacher pulled out a crucial margin on the final run to the flag, clinching victory by 0.6sec in the end.
Both finalists had cruised through the semis in fairly straightforward style. Plato defeated Alain Prost and Priaulx beat Sebastien Loeb in the Britain versus France contests in VW Sciroccos and Porsche 911s, respectively.
The other semi was between Germany and surprise package Benelux, which had breezed through the group stages thanks to a great effort by IndyCar driver Bertrand Baguette. The Belgian had been undefeated in the heats, but a costly slide in the RoC buggy saw him lose his semi to Schumacher. Vettel then beat Baguette's teammate Jeroen Bleekemolen in their head to head in KTM X-Bows.
Those results settled the reigning champion team's nerves after a stuttering start that had seen Germany having to rely on aggregate time tie-breaks to get through the initial group stages, as did France.
Loeb and Prost had edged out Nordic duo Tom Kristensen and Heikki Kovalainen using this system, while Germany had squeezed through at the expense of All-Stars pair Tanner Foust and Mick Doohan. Defeats for Vettel at the hands of Foust and Team USA's Travis Pastrana and a loss to Baguette for Schumacher had given the home crowd quite a scare.
Pastrana's heroics were not enough to get Team America through, as his teammate Carl Edwards did not win any of his three heats. Also out early were Team Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque and Alvaro Parente, partly due to the latter retiring from his heat against Prost when he whacked his KTM X-Bow against the barriers.
The event featured an unusual interruption when World Rally legend Michele Mouton inadvertently rolled a classic Audi Quattro during some demonstration laps between the semis. She quickly hopped out unscathed, and the car also appeared to escape serious harm.