USA Wins The Nations Cup

TELDE, GRAN CANARIA. (November 30)- - The U.S. team of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Colin Edwards won the Nations Cup as part of the Michelin Race of Champions in Gran Canaria off the coast of Morocco on Saturday.

In the opening round of competition, the USA went head-to-head with Brazil. Colin Edwards (1:56.97 sec) topped Alex Barros on the moto while Jimmie Johnson (2:02.44) topped rally driver Antonio Pizzonia. However, the U.S. team failed to sweep the Brazilians as Cristiano da Matta (2:03.48) defeated Jeff Gordon (2:07.03) on the circuit. In the second round of Group B, the American team went head-to-head with Spain. Jeff Gordon (1:53.47) defeated Fernando Alonso, and Colin Edwards (1:56.43) defeated Carlos Checa, however once again the U.S. team failed to sweep as Jesus Puras (1:57.60) defeated Jimmie Johnson.

In the semi-finals, the U.S. team went head-to-head with France. Jeff Gordon (1:53.20) defeated Sebastien Bourdais on the cirucit, Colin Edwards (1:56.25) defeated Mickael Maschio, but the Americans were denied a sweep as Sebastien Loeb (1:58.02) defeated Jimmie Johnson by nine-hundredths of a second. The U.S. team advanced to the Finals where Gordon (1:53.87) defeated Febrizio Giovanardi by fifteen-hundredths of a second over the two lap sprint, and Edwards (1:56.16) defeated Marco Melandri. Though Johnson was defeated by Renato Travaglia, the U.S. captured the Nations Cup.

In terms of overall lap times, Colin Edwards had the fastest moto lap on Saturday among the nine countries represented. Edwards previous experience in ROC cars (2000) paid off as he was undefeated on Saturday. Jeff Gordon had the fourth fastest lap overall in the circuit portion and Jimmie Johnson had the seventh quickest time overall in the rally portion of the event.

Nations Cup Photos:
+All of the participating drivers | +JG: head-on
+Colin, Jimmie, and Jeff celebrate | +Jimmie and Jeff congratulate Colin
+"Oh dios mio!" | +Perfection in Gran Canaria
+Air Jimmie | +Jeff on course | +Nations Cup champions
+Friday/Saturday photos from Julio Quintana
+Sunday photos from Julio Quintana

Nations Cup Press Release Recap

Thousands of miles from home, the U.S. team of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Colin Edwards clinched the fourth Michelin Race of Champions Nations Cup in Gran Canaria The trio triumphed in the finals over the Italian bike, racing and rally trio of Marco Melandri, Fabrizio Giovanardi and Renato Travaglia by three heats to two.

"Admittedly, this is a big surprise but it feels great. We came here wanting to win, and to have some fun, and we had both. It's a truly awesome feeling," said Jimmie Johnson. Four time NASCAR Champion, Jeff Gordon paid tribute to the dominance of Colin Edwards in the Honda Blackbird powered ROC Cars- the 2002 Superbike World Champion won every race: "He was the key player for us. Having been here a couple of years ago, he had the experience that helped make a difference. He was just so smooth."

Edwards may have controlled both his heats, and Gordon may have scored a memorable victory over 2002 European Touring Car Champion, Giovanardi, but Johnson's six-tenths of a second loss to Travaglia was the most exhilarating contest.

On their way to the Final, the USA eliminated previous winners France (2000) in the Semi-Final round and Spain (2001) in the Opening Group Stages.

Group Stages

After rolling his Peugeot 206 WRC in practice on Friday, Marcus Gronholm led Finland to victory in Group A over fellow Scandinavian's Sweden and the UK.

Italy emerged triumphant from Group B wining 5 Heats to 3 over second placed France, with F1 driver, Nick Heidfeld scoring the only success for Germany.

Group B was also the scene of the closest race in Nations Cup history, where Frenchman Sebastian Loeb beat former double World Rally Champion, Walter Rohrl by just six ten-thousandths of a second.

Group C witnessed some of the most entertaining clashes with USA's Gordon spectacularly crossing lanes in his unsuccessful pursuit of Brazil's Cristiano da Matta.

Although Spain completed a white wash over Brazil to finish joint top with 4 Heat wins, the American triumvirate recorded the fastest collective time to book their place in the Semis.

Much to the disappointment of the home crowd, 2001 Nations Cup winners, Spain, failed to clinch the last Semi-Final berth, which is allotted to the fastest runner-up. Group B's France registered a time of 5mins 47.11secs - over three seconds quicker than Spain.

Semi Final

MotoGP World Champion Melandri's mastery of the Michelin Race Of Champions unique ROC Cars helped see off Finland - winning three heats to one. Meanwhile, the second pairing of USA and France provided a much closer contest with the former emerging victorious in the decisive fifth heat.

Qualification for Michelin Race of Champions

Automatically qualified for the fifteenth running of the Michelin Race of Champions are 2002 World Rally Champion, Marcus Gronholm, Sebastian Loeb and 2001 winner, Harri Rovanpera. Joining the hugely talented quartet will be wildcard entrant, Jeff Gordon and the fastest two racers of the day, Fabrizio Giovanardi and Kenny Brack. 2002 European Rally Champion, Roberto Travaglia qualifies as the second fastest rally driver, alongside 2002 Spanish Rally Champion, Jesus Puras, and biker Melandri.

Michelin Race of Champions (Sunday)

Marcus Gronholm of Finland, the 2002 World Rally Champion, won the Michelin Race of Champions on Sunday in Gran Canaria. In the quarterfinal round, Gronholm defeated Jimmie Johnson after the NASCAR star failed to complete his second lap which allowed Gronholm to advance. Johnson was subbing for Jeff Gordon who received a wild car entry into the Race of Champions but had to withdraw due to a bout of food poisoning. In the semifinals, Gronholm defeated Francois Duval. The final was a three-lap contest pitting Gronholm against Sebastien Loeb of France. Gronholm defeated Loeb by nine-tenths of a second to capture the individual honors as the winner of the Michelin Race of Champions. "It was a really hard battle, but very rewarding," Gronholm said. "Loeb did incredibly well, he adapted himself to the Peugeot 206 amazingly fast."

Brack Wins ROC America
TELDE, GRAN CANARIA. (November 30)- - As a prelude to the weekend's events in Gran Canaria, a special U.S. motorsport challenge (Race of Champions America) was held on Friday, November 29. In the two-lap final on the 2.6 km course, Kenny Brack edged Jeff Gordon to take the top honors. The event pitted U.S. open-wheel stars Brack and Christiano da Matta against stock car aces Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson in ROC cars. Brack's winning lap time was 1:56.45-- the fastest lap of the competition. In the final race, Gordon initially charged into the lead only to crash heavily into a barrier in the late stages. "The first lap was my best of the day, but I really messed up at the end. Even so it was great fun," Gordon said. To advance to the final, Gordon took on his NASCAR counterpart Johnson. Gordon took the checkered flag by a mere sixteen-hundredths of a second ahead of Johnson. "I'm gonna be proud of that moment for a very long time," Gordon said after the match race. Later in the day, Gordon took a few laps around the course with rally-sprint ace Marcus Gronholm. The duo put on a show and wound up flipping several times on the course.

Gran Canaria - ROC America Photos:
+Gordon, Brack, y las senoritas | +Dirt trackin'
+Jeff gets ready for the event | +Jeff crashes in the ROC America final
+Gronholm and Gordon's wild ride | +End result
+"I think we killed the car"

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