Over 10 years ago, Petter Solberg clinched the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship with Subaru.
Just over 10 years ago, in a dark forest in the depths of Wales, a boy from Norway became World Champion. That boy was Petter Solberg, clinching the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship with Subaru, after a remarkable season.
This weekend, Petter returns to Great Britain leading the championship once more. But now we’re obviously talking about the brand new FIA World Rallycross Championship. So far, Petter is on track with for his ambition of becoming the first person ever to clinch two FIA championships in different disciplines.
Petter – nicknamed ‘Hollywood’ for his show-stopping style – is riding a wave of confidence at the moment, and he has a colossal army of fans in Great Britain. He’s won Rally GB four times after all (from 2002 to 2005) and nearly always driven for British-based teams while he was rallying.
This year he’s running his own team, which only increases his achievement in leading the World Rallycross Championship after his resounding victory in Portugal three weeks ago. Now the series heads to Lydden Hill in Kent for round two, where Petter made his rallycross debut last year.
“I’m really looking forward to Lydden,” says ‘Hollywood’. “The track itself is fantastic, but especially the British fans: they are so enthusiastic with a passion for the sport just like mine. British people really get rallycross because it’s always been part of their motorsport. And of course I have lots of fans in Britain too.”
Situated in a bowl that offers spectators an uninterrupted view of the action, Lydden Hill is a circuit that demands complete commitment because of its high speeds and rapid transitions from asphalt to gravel. In total, the circuit is 1.170 kilometres long, with 60% asphalt and 40% gravel. This year, the event is sponsored by Autosport magazine: one of Petter’s favourite reads.
“Lydden is a lot of fun to drive because of all the elevation: a bit like a mini-Spa,” adds Petter. “The secret is probably just to carry as much momentum as possible into the corners, but for that you need a good set-up and finding the right set-up for every circuit is the key to rallycross. But one thing I soon learned was that, perhaps more than any other form of motorsport, there’s no such thing as exactly the right set-up. Instead it’s about the best all-round compromise. It would be easy for me to make a car that was mighty on asphalt, for example, but then you might lose out on the gravel. That’s especially the case for Lydden, with all the high-speed changes of surface.”
As always, Petter will be joined by his new team mate and compatriot Alex Hvaal, with both cars running a striking livery made up of the colours of the Norwegian flag. Alex didn’t quite have the same success as Petter in Portugal, so he’s looking to get his campaign off to a proper start in Britain. Together, Petter and Alex are also fighting for the teams title this year, with the PSRX squad currently third in the standings, just six points off the front.
As the opening round of the European Rallycross Championship as well, there will be a record-breaking entry lof Supercars at Lydden, with drivers from 24 different nationalities. Among Petter’s rivals will be extreme sports specialist (and fellow rally driver) Tanner Foust, from America, while former F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr is also taking part.
But the Norwegian is on a mission. “Now that I’ve won in Portugal, it just make me all the more determined to carry on like this for the rest of the season,” he concludes.
Petter Solberg RX Team