ROC: France wins Nations Cup

Former grand prix driver Jean Alesi helped France grab the Nations Cup in the Race of Champions on Saturday after star of the night Heikki Kovalainen was robbed of a chance of the win by mechanical failure

ROC: France wins Nations Cup

But incredibly Alesi nearly threw the victory away in the final by stopping his car early, thinking the event was won, before the chequered flag.

With Kovalainen cruising around in his broken Ferrari, Alesi had come up to lap the Finn and thought the win was in the bag - so he pulled over at the final corner. He had climbed out and was celebrating with the crowd when he realised that he had still not officially finished - so had to climb back into the car and drive it across the line.

The battle for the Nations Cup was decided after a tense battle for supremacy over five sensational heats - with the two countries all tied with two victories each during the first four contests.

Kovalainen had taken two wins against Alesi during their battles, although one of those was thanks to Alesi being given a 10-second penalty for hitting the wall. Sebastien Loeb had also beaten Marcus Gronholm twice to keep France in the fight.

Alesi was overjoyed with emotion about his victory in front of a home crowd - and duly threw his helmet to his cheering supporters.

"It feels good," said Alesi of the victory. "But it was big pressure because twice I lost [in the heats], so to win I have to thank Sebastien."

Loeb added: "It feels very good to win here in France. I am very happy to win of course."

Although Autosport Team GB went out of the event in the semi-final at the hands of Finland, David Coulthard had no complaints about the event.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed myself," he said. "I have never had an experience like this before, driving a car sideways. It has been great to meet all the drivers from the different championships."

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