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Schumacher set for a spin at the Bird's Nest
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While Michael Schumacher has waved farewell to F1, he is saying hello to Beijing.

For those who were disappointed by his announcement to call off his much-anticipated F1 comeback, they will have another chance to see him in action in three months' time at the Bird's Nest, where the former seven-time F1 world drivers' champion is expected to compete in The Race of Champions (ROC) on Nov. 3 and 4.

The 40-year-old canceled his plan of a temporary return to F1 at this month's European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain on Tuesday because of lingering injuries from a motorcycle crash earlier this year. He was to fill in for injured Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.

Joining him in the Beijing ROC is Jenson Button, the current leading driver in F1 world championship, as well as top drivers from other facets of motor racing.

The annual event is the only competition in the world where stars from F1, the World Rally Championship, NASCAR, sportscars and touring cars compete against each other in similar vehicles.

"It (the race) is for fun but when you step into the car, when you wear the helmet, you really want to win," Fredrik Johnsson, co-founder of the event and president of International Media Productions (IMP) told China Daily on Tuesday.

"They have no excuse since they will drive the same kind of car, they must want to win the title more than they do in normal racing."

Unlike most racing and rallies, the event will take place on a specially-constructed asphalt circuit inside the stadium which will take five days to build.

"It will transform the experience by moving it into the stadium. Drivers will feel extremely excited due to the huge amount of spectators," Johnsson said.

"We hope to inspire more Chinese youth to take part in the sport by introducing it to Beijing and giving them a chance to compete with the top drivers in the world."

The ROC is made up of two separate competitions - the ROC Nations Cup, featuring drivers paired in teams based on their nationalities, and The Race of Champions, a straightforward knockout competition where drivers will go head-to-head until the champion is decided.

The individual winner of the ROC will claim the title "Champion of Champions".

As the hosts, China will have a two-driver team compete for the Nations Cup against nine other countries. A selection trial for the China team will be held on Nov 2.

Started by Johnsson and Michle Mouton, the world's most successful female rally driver in 1988, the ROC has traditionally moved from venue to venue around the world. It had been held at Wembley Stadium in London for the past two years. China is the first non-European country to host the event.

"We received exciting proposals from five world-class stadia but after the incredible Olympics last year, Beijing's candidacy was difficult to ignore," Johnsson said.

"The Bird's Nest venue is awesome, we were thrilled about the opportunity to take the Race of Champions to Asia for the first time, to another of the world's most iconic sporting arenas."

Li Jianyi, General Manager of the managing company of the Bird's Nest, said he was pleased to host the event.

"We are very excited about the Race of Champions. The stadium has already hosted the world's fastest athletes; now it will host the world's fastest racers," Li said.

Last year's Race of Champions attracted drivers including Schumacher, Sebastien Loeb of World Rallying, Tom Kristensen of the Le Mans 24 Hours and Andy Priaulx of World Touring Cars, as well as F1 race winners Button, David Coulthard and Sebastian Vettel, plus Triple World Superbike champion Troy Bayliss.

Others that have competed in the past include multiple MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi and two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso.

(China Daily August 13, 2009)

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