The Race of Champions is a unique event in motorsport. Nowhere else will you find world-class drivers and riders from disciplines as diverse as F1, Le Mans, MotoGP and World Rallycross all competing against each other in identical cars.
Last year's event in sunny Barbados saw David Coulthard take the individual class win, reaching the final of the 'Nations Cup' with Team Scotland team-mate and Williams F1 development driver Suzie Wolff. This year the event moves to the former Olympic stadium in London and the Flying Scotsman is coming back to defend his crown.
We caught up with him at a special Race of Champions preview day held a stone's throw away from the stunning stadium in Olympic Park, after he had just spent an hour or two putting in laps of a special 'skills driving' course in a very sideways Ariel Atom, vying for the best time with Super-smiley F1 star Daniel Ricciardo. We ask the man affectionately known as DC whether he's had fun.
“It's good fun because it's so unpredictable in a way,” he replies. “I was a couple of tenths down on Daniel's time and I screwed up the first corner so I'm quite happy with that. It means I know in my mind that I can go faster.”
The organisers have apparently created the course in the image of the one that will be built for the real thing at the end of November. But this isn't an advantage, the veteran racer beside me says.
“It's not about where the course goes; it's about how the car reacts and that's the thing that is quite tricky. You can see, even like Daniel on that last run there, he hit the bollard. We're not doing the same thing twice, because you have to slide the car which is counter-intuitive to what we do in single-seaters. But it's all good, it's a different thing and you have to get on with it.”
The field of winners aiming to take DC's crown away from him includes stellar names like four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, 'Mr Le Mans' Tom Kristensen and World Rallycross champ Petter Solberg – who might just be the main threat to Coulthard.
“This should be his natural domain,” he says, “because he lives on a car being sideways. For me, when the car gets sideways I'm in an area where I can't judge how far it's going to go, so I have to wait [before reacting], whereas he instinctively knows.”
It's the stadium atmosphere that makes racing in the Race of Champions so special for the drivers. It's how the organisers keep tempting the cream of the motorsport world's talent to come and compete year after year.
The BBC F1 pundit says: “[I like] the stadiums. In the wheel-to-wheel and the timed racing you get it right or you get it wrong. You have to deliver within a minute and if you do you go through and if you don't then you have to sit and watch.
“I've done this for many years and sometimes I've gone out in the first round, and I've made it to the final twice, so it's just the way it goes.” There's that unpredictability again.
The rest of us will enjoy watching all the competitors, but it's the champions Coulthard is keen to see. “I always enjoy watching the champions of different disciplines,” he explains. “They are all highly skilled; they have an in-built ability to judge a car and what have you. Like Michael (Schumacher), when he was doing it, he was always very smooth when he was going fast, but then you've got Petter who's more aggressive, Tom Kristensen who's in the middle; there's many different ways to skin the cat – or drive the track!”
He's keeping his fingers crossed for plenty of support for Team Scotland, but isn't holding his breath. “Of course, absolutely! There's no point being here if you can't bring family and friends and hope that the UK crowd will get behind us.
“We (he and Susie Wolff) might be marginalising ourselves slightly by going Team Scotland, but there you go. That's part of the banter of being part of the British Isles.”
The Race of Champions takes place over the evenings of Friday and Saturday November 20-21. Tickets start from £24 and reach £75.