From Ron Salter [ 08/12/2001 ].
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21 year old Belgian Francois Duval and 55 year old Swede Stig Blomqvist won their respective competitions at the Race of Champions on Gran Canaria yesterday. Duval beat off competition from S1600 World Champion Sebastien Loeb and Grp N World Champion Gabriel Pozzo to claim the Junior Masters title whilst Blomqvist was victorious in the battle of the oldies against such names as Timo Salonen, Bjorn Waldergard and Per Eklund to be crowned "ROC Legend" once again. The pair will now progress onto the main "Michelin Race of Champions" contest.
A joyous Duval said afterwards: "It was a very close contest in the last round, but I just managed to stay ahead of Sebastien. I felt very comfortable in all the cars, and was able to settle in quickly. It was enjoyable."
Duval beat Loeb in both heats of the final winning by four seconds in the opening Yaris bout, and just shading the Mitsubishi race by a second.
With five drives confirmed with the Ford World Rally Team next season, Duval said of his maiden Race Of Champions event: "It is a really special atmosphere here. I have enjoyed every minute of the racing and a fantastic crowd. It's been a real honour to be part of such a prestigious occasion."
Loeb, who will be contesting seven events with Citroen in the 2002 WRC season, commented: "Duval drove well here today. He was consistently quick, but I am looking forward to more battles with him next year when we both step up into the World Rally Championship."
Gabriel Pozzo, appearing in Skoda colours for the first time, beat Portuguese Grp N ace Miguel Campos to the final podium spot.
Blomqvist dominated the veteran's competition, winning all of his heats before beating Timo Salonen in the final.
The Nations Cup takes place today, with a top rally driver, circuit racer and motorcycle rider from each competing country making up the teams. The main attraction of the weekend, the battle for the overall Michelin Race of Champions title is scheduled for Sunday.