Filipe Albuquerque defeated three-time winner and World Rally legend Sebastien Loeb to take a shock victory in the Race of Champions in Dusseldorf.
The sometime Red Bull protege and GP2 driver Albuquerque – now a GT racer – breezed through the qualifying rounds to take on Loeb in the final, and a win each in the first two races of the three-round showdown, including a 0.02sec photo-finish triumph for Loeb in the second one, set up a decider in RoC buggies.
Loeb appeared to hold the early edge, but Albuquerque had a superb second lap and the 25-year-old Portuguese driver came through to edge Loeb at the line.
Albuquerque had won all of his heats, then defeated countryman Alvaro Parente in the quarter finals before taking on Sebastian Vettel in the semis. Vettel looked set for a narrow win after the first lap, but Albuquerque fought back to overturn Vettel's 0.4sec advantage and snatch victory by a tenth, silencing the home fans.
Vettel had already eliminated the crowd's other hero, Michael Schumacher, when the results of the heats pitched the two Germans against each other in the quarter finals.
Loeb saw off Tom Kristensen in the quarter finals and Andy Priaulx in the semis – winning the latter contest before locking up his Audi R8 and nudging the barriers after the checkered flag. Priaulx had earlier beaten IndyCar's Bertrand Baguette in the quarter finals.
Heikki Kovalainen's return to the event he famously won in 2004 proved to be an unhappy experience. After his Team Nordic pairing with Kristenen was knocked out early in the Nations' Cup, today he crashed heavily in the afternoon's very first heat.
During a narrow defeat to Loeb, Kovalainen clipped the barriers at the final corner and broke his Audi R8's rear suspension. This pitched the car into a spin as he tried to brake on the slowing-down lap, and after demolishing the inside barriers, Kovalainen had a heavy impact with the outside wall. Both Kovalainen and his passenger – his girlfriend, Catherine Hyde – were unhurt but the Lotus driver decided to withdraw from the event.
Spins in heats helped Alain Prost, Travis Pastrana, Tanner Foust and Mick Doohan to early exits. Also eliminated before the quarter finals were Carl Edwards, Jason Plato and Jeroen Bleekemolen.