Fourth place overnight, six points behind the leader
Sometimes, the harshest words come from your biggest fans. “Hmmm…it was OK. Just OK,” commented 12-year-old Oliver Solberg, himself a rising star in crosskarts, about his dad’s performance so far on round two of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, at Lydden Hill in Great Britain.
The opening day consisted of practice and two heats for the leading Supercar class, before two more heats, the semi-final, and final scheduled for the main race day tomorrow.
At the moment Petter is fourth overnight, having experienced two very different heats in changeable weather: a tradition that is as strong in Britain as the Queen, fish and chips, and afternoon tea.
In heat one, Petter didn’t see the five-second board before the start and was caught out before the race got underway, stalling as the others charged to the first corner. Undeterred, he fought back from last to record 12th overall in the first heat: a typically fighting performance.
“I don’t know what it was, but I just couldn’t see the board,” said ‘Hollywood’. “So the start took me by surprise and I had to fight back from last. There was nothing wrong with the car; it was just my misunderstanding. It was irritating, because looking at our pace, I think we had a good chance of winning the heat.”
The second heat was much better. Petter led commandingly after taking the lead at the start of the race, despite conditions that were by now rough and rutted in the gravel: the result of intermittent rain all day.
“I could have been four or five seconds quicker but I didn’t want to take any risks at all because of the chance of getting a puncture,” said the 2003 World Rally Champion, who won his title in Great Britain. “It was so rough that I just wanted to be sure of getting to the finish.”
The result is a solid fourth place overnight, only six points behind the leader. Petter is in a much stronger position than he was on Saturday night on the opening round in Portugal – which he won – so there is everything to play for tomorrow. First, a small pit stop…
“I’m going to make the car a little bit softer: it looks quite soft already but we could do with a bit more traction,” concluded Norway’s biggest motorsport star in his service area. “We won in Portugal and I can tell you: I have every confidence that we can do this again. It doesn’t matter if it rains or not; this is just England!”
Petter’s compatriot and team mate Alexander Hvaal is 22nd overnight, having found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time for the notoriously variable British weather.
“Every time we went out when it was wet, we had a dry set-up, and every time we went out when it was dry, we were on a wet set-up…it was just really unlucky,” he said. “But tomorrow is another long day: there is still plenty to come.”
The final takes place on Sunday at 15:45.