Hunter-Reay looks forward to his first ROC challenge

s1_16101Joe Jennings |

American IndyCar 2012 Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay accepted his invitation to compete in the 25th Race of Champions to be held in Thailand. He joins a stellar list of racers around the world.

American IndyCar 2012 Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay accepted his invitation to compete in the 25th Race of Champions to be held in Thailand. He joins a stellar list of racers around the world.

Since winning the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, Ryan Hunter-Reay has been caught-up in a whirlwind of activities with guest appearances and interviews throughout the United States. But his schedule accelerates this week when he flies to Bangkok, Thailand, to compete in the world-renowned Race Of Champions (ROC), a three-day event being held on December 14-16.

“I am looking forward to it,” Hunter-Reay said in a news conference hosted by the IndyCar Series today. He also confirmed that in the opening round of competition he will dual with seven times Formula One champion Michael Schumacher. “I have looked up to Michael for a long time with his work ethic, and his team mentality have rubbed off on me. It will be pretty cool to square off against him, and I am looking forward to meeting him.”

Hunter-Reay said there’s no way to prepare for this type of competition; instead, he will rely upon the skill set that he has developed over the years while racing different types of cars. “While not an open-wheel car, it is still a car with four wheels, a steering wheel and pedals. You have to make it work,” he commented.

He admitted he has just started reviewing videotapes of previous ROC races, but doesn’t believe he has learned much while looking in from the outside.

The Florida resident will arrive in Thailand fresh off an IndyCar winter test at the Sebring International Raceway. From Sebring, he will helicopter to Miami, Fla., for an 8-hour flight to London followed by a 12-hour flight to Bangkok.

For the 25th anniversary edition of the ROC, Hunter-Reay will compete against 15 of the world’s top racers, including Formula 1 champions’ Sebastian Vettel and Schumacher. Others include former F1 driver David Coulthard, V8 Supercar champion Jamie Whincup, FIA Production World Rally champion Benito Guerra, F1’s Romain Grosjean, World Touring Car champion Andy Priaulx, Le Mans superstar Tom Kristensen, MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo, and others.

Hunter-Reay is looking forward to interacting with these drivers and the many other individuals he expects to meet while in Bangkok. “I am looking forward to getting to know these guys and to meet new people from the world of motor sports,” he indicated.

“You have to have a lot of respect for the drivers from these different talent pools. You can learn quite a bit from the way these guys approach the challenge of the Race of Champions. Everyone’s going to be having fun, but it is a form of competition and everyone wants to win. And it doesn’t matter whether we are racing shopping carts or whatever.”

The event will be held on a specially designed track in Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium, and the drivers will compete in a series of unique cars. (In the past, the cars have included a buggy-type vehicle, a sports car and a rally car.) The 16 championship drivers are split into four groups of four with each driver racing against the others within his group. The two drivers with the most wins from each group advance to the final, to be crowned the Champion of Champions.

In addition, there will be a ROC Nations Cup event and for the first time a ROC Asia Cup race.

After the ROC, Hunter-Reay plans to relax for a while before his 2013 season starts with the Rolex24 at Daytona and shortly thereafter with the IndyCar Series opener at St. Petersburg. For the 2013 IndyCar season, his Andretti Autosport car will sport the No. 1 instead of his traditional No. 28, and he’s looking forward to wearing the championship number. “I looked at the history of wearing the No. 1, and it was basically common for that be done until 2005 or so,” he said. “We are just picking the tradition up, and the fans really like it. Wearing No. 1 is a privilege and I am definitely going to take advantage of that.”

Hunter-Reay is a champion’s champion, and he can be expected to represent the IndyCar Series well while in Thailand and throughout the upcoming season as he defends his coveted crown.

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