Sebastien Loeb defeated a resurgent Sebastian Vettel in the Swedish snow to win the Race of Champions’ main event for the fourth time.
World Rally Championship legend Loeb, fresh off a stunning victory in the 2022 WRC opener in Monte Carlo, beat four-time Formula 1 title winner Vettel 3-1 in the Champion of Champions final at the first race Race of Champions to be held on snow and ice in the north of Sweden.
Vettel had won only one of his four heats on Saturday as Team Germany exited the Nations Cup at the quarter-final stage despite the best efforts of Vettel’s unbeaten team-mate Mick Schumacher.
But their fortunes reversed on Sunday in the individual event, where Schumacher was eliminated in the preliminary round by two-time W Series champion Jamie Chadwick while Vettel went from strength to strength en route to the final itself.
Vettel beat Emma Kimilainen, Colton Herta and Tom Kristensen to earn a showdown with Loeb in the Polaris buggies, RX Supercar Lites and RX2e electric rallycross car.
Loeb was on objectively the tougher side of the draw and defeated both halves of Saturday’s Nations Cup winning Norway team – Petter and Oliver Solberg, in the round of 18 and quarter-final respectively – then Mattias Ekstrom to reach the final.
Nine-time WRC champion Loeb was the favourite and went 2-0 up against Vettel with wins in the Polaris and the RX Lite.
But a mistake from Loeb in the RX2e gave hope to Vettel, who had looked set to be beaten in a clean sweep.
Vettel was over the limit through his run in the electric rallycross car, hitting several snowbanks, and Loeb seemed on course to edge the third heat until he lost control and got stuck in a bank.
That sent the best-of-three final to a fourth heat, back in the Polaris buggy, and Vettel came close to forcing a tie-break but lost by just 0.786s.
Loeb’s win ties him with Didier Auriol as the most successful driver in the Champion of Champions with four victories.