Reigning IndyCar Series Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has been added to the list of drivers competing in the Race of Champions in Bangkok, Thailand this weekend. Hunter-Reay said the opportunity came about at the final event of the IndyCar Series sesaon right after he was crowned the 2012 Champion.
“I saw Jim Hancock who puts the program together, who promotes Race of Champions and runs the event,” Hunter-Reay said. “I saw him at the Fontana race, and we had just won the championship. Before I even got up on the stage to accept the trophy with my team, he said you want to do Race of Champions in Bangkok? And I was in a pretty yes mood, so it was yes to any question I was hearing, for sure. I’m looking forward to it.”
The event is taking place for the 25th consecutive year and is meant to put champions from across the world against each other head-to-head in identical cars on a specially constructed track. Other notable champions involve include 2011 “Champion of Champions” Sebastien Ogier, Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher, among others.
“I certainly looked up to Michael for a long time,” Hunter-Reay says of Schumacher. “His work ethic and his team mentality has certainly rubbed off on me. He’s a guy I’ve looked up to for a long time. You know, he’s had a huge impact in the racing industry and on drivers, young drivers such as myself coming up. So it will be pretty cool to square off against him, first off.”
I’m looking to advance as far as I can, and hopefully surprise a few folks there.
Drivers pair up and compete for the ROC Nations Cup. Hunter-Reay’s partner will be Benito Guerra Jr. of Mexico, FIA’s Production World Rally Championship this season.
Drivers are set to compete in a variety of cars, including a KTM X-Bow, a Gallardo Super Trofeo, an Audi R8 LMS or even a VW Scirocco.
“I don’t have any of those toys to mess around with at home,” he said. “So I think you have to rely on your skill set that you kind of worked on over the years and jumping from car to car, sports car to IndyCar to some of the heavier stuff that I’ve driven, stock cars and stuff, you just have to rely on the skill set.”
He says he would’ve liked to see some sort of open wheel car in the mix, but understands why they did what they did.
“But, hey, it’s still a car,” he added. “It has four wheels and a steering wheel, two pedals, three pedals, you have to make it work.”
Before leaving to go run the event, Hunter-Reay took to the track to begin testing for the 2013 season.
“We’re really looking forward to getting back to Sebring and kind of just bringing some things full circle from last year,” he said. “We want to confirm a few things, test a few new things, and really just get some answers before the Holidays come. So it’s a good opportunity, a great opportunity to get back in the car.”
It makes a tight schedule as Hunter-Reay will probably miss some practice at the Race of Champions event.
While Hunter-Reay is looking to compete for the win, he mainly wants to take in the event and enjoy himself.
“It’s a race I’ve watched for a while and something I’ve wanted to be a part of,” he said. “Before we did this year, I think certainly deserved our spot. But it’s going to be something racing those guys and really getting to know them and meeting some new people from around the world of Motorsports.”