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Narain, Karun to team up

Posted on Nov 06, 10:03PM | IANS

India's only two Formula One drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok Tuesday confirmed their debut participation in the 2012 Race of Champions (ROC) as Team India at the event that will be held in Thailand Dec 15-16.

The two-day event will also see participation of seven-time F1 World champion Michael Schumacher, reigning F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo and Indycar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.

After recent visits to London's Wembley Stadium (2007-2008), Beijing's 'Bird's Nest' Olympic Stadium (2009) and Dusseldorf's ESPRIT arena (2010-2011), ROC 2012 will take place on a specially constructed tarmac track with two parallel lanes winding their way round Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium.

Michael Schumacher and Vettel, representing Germany, have won the team event for the last five years and will return to defend their crown this year.

This will be the first time since 2004 that India's two leading drivers will be part of the same team, since the World Series Renault Championship.

Karthikeyan, who drives for HRT, said: "It's really cool to receive an invitation to participate in the Race of Champions. What a fantastic honour it is as well. The competition is the strongest in the world with only the best of the best from many different forms of motor sport all competing against each other."

"The added benefit of representing your country is a real privilege, and one which I have done before in my career, so I know how special that feels. Karun and I are definitely going to enjoy ourselves, racing against our peers in some pretty cool machinery, but we will also be gunning for victory, and with a bit of luck, we will bring glory to our nation."

World Endurance Championship driver Chandhok, who drove for HRT in 2010 and Lotus in 2011, said: "I'm very excited about going to the Race of Champions this year! It's fantastic that the organisers have decided to have an Indian team and Narain and I had the dates free to do it.

"The event looks like a lot of fun while obviously being very competitive. The concept of ROC Asia is very interesting - we have seen in the last 10 years how motor sport has been shifting to this end of the world more and more and it's great that Fredrik and his team at ROC have embraced this.

"Narain and I haven't been in the same team since 2004 when neither of us was an F1 driver. A lot has changed in life since then and it should be a lot of fun to work together again."

Race organizer Fredrik Johnsson said: "We have been looking forward to ROC Asia ever since we knew we were coming to Bangkok this year and the line-up has lived up to our expectations.

"With the might of China and India in the mix, we hope to see plenty of new motor sport fans cheering on their heroes at the Race of Champions. Narain and Karun are a formidable pairing for Team India and will certainly be a threat."

The end-of-season contest, which is being staged for the 25th consecutive year in 2012, brings together the world's greatest drivers from motorsport's main disciplines - including Formula 1, World Rally, touring cars, Le Mans, MotoGP, Indycar and the X-Games.

They will compete in pairs in identical machinery. Driver's pair up for the ROC Nations Cup, this year scheduled for December 15, before the individual Race Of Champions the following day.

The Race of Champions is a knockout tournament through a series of head-to-head races in identical cars on a parallel track. The stars fight it out to prove they have what it takes to be crowned 'Champion of Champions'.

The event starts with a group stage to ensure fans get to see plenty of action from every driver. The racers face up to each of the other drivers in their group, with cars swapped round between heats so they all have to prove themselves in a variety of machinery. The most successful drivers move on to the quarter-finals.

From there, it's back to a head-to-head knockout competition to get to the semi-finals and then the Grand Final.