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Race of Champions moves to Beijing

The Bird's Nest Stadium at Beijing (cc by Chen Zhao)The 2009 Race of Champions will be held at Beijing, immediately after Formula 1's inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, organisers announced today.

The event, which was held in Wembley Stadium in London, England, in the last couple of years, will be the first international sporting event to be held in the Bird's Nest stadium since the Olympic Games last summer.

Additionally, the event will be held for the first time in the middle of the week, rather than on a weekend, and just two days after the F1 season comes to a close at Abu Dhabi.

The 2009 event will run over two days, the first day on Tuesday, November 3rd, staging the Nations Cup, which was won by Germany last year. The Race of Champions will be held on the following day. World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb took the title in the 2008 event.

Speaking about the move, Fredrik Johnsson, President of Event Organisers IMP, stated: "we received exciting proposals from five world-class stadia, but after the incredible Olympics last year, Beijing's candidacy was difficult to ignore.

"The Bird's Nest venue is awesome, and having spent the last five years at two of Europe's biggest stadiums, 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."

Mr Li Jianyi, General Manager of Beijing CITIC Consortium Stadium Management, the managing company of the Bird's Nest, said of the agreement: "Following last year's Olympics, we now possess one of the world's best sporting stadia and will continue to stage elite international sporting competition in Beijing.

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

The Race of Champions was first held in 1988 as a competition between rally drivers, but in 2004 was relaunched as a battle between motorsport drivers from leading series, including Formula 1, WRC, NASCAR, endurance racing, and karting.

The event was held at the Stade de France in Paris between 2004 and 2006, then moving to Wembley Stadium for the past couple of years. And despite leaving Europe for the first time, Johnsson has promised the Race of Champions will return to its origins in the future.

"I would like to say thank you to Wembley for the past two years," Johnsson said. "The people there were great to work with and helped us put on two fantastic events. This year will be the Race of Champions' first year outside of Europe, but we will definitely be back soon."

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