Jolyon Palmer challenges racing legends in attacking Race of Champions debut

Jolyon tackled the challenging Bush Park circuit in a variety of different machines. Picture courtesy of Race of Champions
Jolyon tackled the challenging Bush Park circuit in a variety of different machines. Picture courtesy of Race of Champions

Jolyon Palmer lit up the track with aggressive performances on his debut appearance in the Race Of Champions (ROC) yesterday afternoon (Sunday 14 December), just falling short of going through to the quarter-finals at the Bushy Park circuit in Barbados.

GP2 Champion Palmer was drawn in one of the toughest groups for the opening stage of the competition, facing Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, DTM race-winner Pascal Wehrlein, and nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, who had guided Team Nordic to victory in yesterday’s Nations Cup at Bushy Park.

Jolyon made a great start in the first of his heats, in the ROC buggy, to lead Hunter-Reay away from the line. As they crossed the line for the first time Hunter-Reay was leading, but Jolyon put in a storming second lap to have a comfortable lead with just a couple of corners remaining. Unfortunately he just clipped the barrier at the final chicane, resulting in a time penalty which cost him his on-the-road victory.

Jolyon made another superb getaway to beat ROC veteran Kristensen off the line in his second heat, in the Euro NASCAR. Kristensen, however, put his greater experience with the event format to good use, coming back to win the heat.

Heading into the final heat, this time in the powerful Stadium Super Truck, Jolyon needed to win to progress to further rounds of the competition. He responded with another terrific start to initially lead Wehrlein, who had prior experience of the car from the previous day. Jolyon attacked the opening lap with style, tackling many corners with just three of the bulky machine’s wheels touching the ground, before being bitten by the unpredictable truck and spinning from the lead, which allowed Wehrlein to steal the win.

The Race of Champions concludes a spectacular season for Jolyon, in which he scored an unprecedented 276 points and won four races to become GP2 Champion. Immediately after the GP2 season he had his first experience of driving a Formula One car in a test at Abu Dhabi, impressing the Sahara Force India team with his pace and technical feedback.