He's a true fan favorite, who has seen his fair share of highs and lows throughout his career, but "Hollywood" Petter Solberg is currently enjoying a renaissance in the FIA World RX Championship. The Norwegian ace, who won the 2003 WRC drivers’ title with Subaru, currently leads the standings after an exciting race weekend over in Canada.
Solberg may be one of the nicest guys you will meet, but when the race suit is zipped up and the helmet goes on, he still has that burning desire to go for broke and seek glory across the world in the Rallycross arena, against some of the toughest talent in the category.
With just 11 days left until the forthcoming round at Lohéac, Petter was kind enough to talk to us here at Nationwide Vehicle Contracts about his decision to come away from the WRC, his decision to run his own team, his love of cars and the World RX scene.
Nationwide Vehicle Contracts: Petter, firstly thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at NVC. After 13 years of competing in the WRC, you decided to go back to Rallycross last year. What helped you to make that choice, having competed over the world over the toughest roads for man and machine?
Petter Solberg: I simply wanted to try something new - a new challenge. I had several offers from rally teams and other motorsports, but honestly didn’t get the big kick from anything else than rally and rallycross.
When IMG took charge of RX and started developing the European Championship into a World Championship, I saw it as a great opportunity to join something new, exciting, powerful and spectacular. Still nothing beats rallying in total, but RX comes pretty close!
NVC: With your wife Pernilla as CEO of PSRX, your new adventure in Rallycross has been more of a family affair, especially with both of you having your own successes in motorsport. How does it feel to be able to do things your way, rather than say being part of a factory team?
PS: It’s a huge difference, for sure! Now I run all operations together with Pernilla and some key team members, and looking at what we have achieved so far, I don’t think we’ve done too bad…
Pernilla is very systematic and passionate, and we work very well together. The main difference is that I’ve hand picked each and every person in my team. In my opinion, I have the best crew possible at this point.
NVC: You took the opening World RX round in Portugal and became the first driver to win outside of Europe in Canada the other weekend, taking back the lead in the championship. You paid tribute to the team after the great work they did over a hectic day for everyone in Canada, so is it always better to have a choice of who you can work with?
PS: The team is crucial in my campaign towards the big goal of the season. I was very impressed by my mechanics in Canada. I knew from a long and hard winter and an intense season start what level my mechanics are at, but in Canada they went all the way and served me a winning car to every single heat. That’s just amazing!
NVC: What is the biggest differences between the Volvo 240 that helped you win 4 Norwegian Rallycross championships and the Citroën DS3 RX you use now?
PS: It’s not possible to compare. But I was as satisfied with my Volvo in those glorious years that I am with my DS3 now. I truly hope that my DS3 will become just as successful!
NVC: You share a close bond with your older brother Henning, who also took part in the Canada event. Is there any possibility that we could see you two in the same team or working together in some way in the future?
PS: You never know! Henning is a very good driver - that’s for sure. But we are also two very strong personalities - and I’m not sure if Pernilla could handle both of us as CEO… I hope that Henning decides to carry on with Rallycross, then we’ll just have to see.
NVC: There are still 5 more rounds to go, as World RX hits the “temple of rallycross,” Lohéac, where a good friend of yours, Ken Block, is looking forward to racing against you again. What does it mean to have both Ken and Tanner compete in the series as “Wildcards,” which helps to spice up the action?
PS: For the World RX, it’s exciting that Block and Foust are joining some rounds. I would like to see them race for a whole World RX season. They have the skills; the Foust win in Finland and the Block 3rd place in Norway proves just that!
NVC: Sten Oja, one of the engineers for the team, got the chance to race in the other PSRX car, as Alexander Hvaal was unable to make the event. Are there any further developments as to who we will see in the car from Lohéac onwards, or will that be on a race weekend basis?
PS: In France, I will team up with Simone Romagna from Italy. He might drive one or two more rounds, and maybe we’ll see Sten Oja back again as well. Nothing has been decided quite yet.
NVC: With the diverse range of drivers coming from the likes of rallycross, rallying and single seaters, who would you say has been the most impressive driver or drivers so far?
PS: I would say Reinis Nitiss and Topi Heikkinen. They have both impressed me a lot. Nitiss is just 18 years old - and he is extremely talented!
NVC: Neil Cole took a look at some of the cars that you have in your collection a couple of years ago, which have some very special memories, like the Subaru WRX 22B that you were given as a present, and the Impreza that you won your first rally in. What would you say are the possible top three cars that you have in your collection?
PS: I have a passion for cars, and every single one of them - from my 1930 Pontiac to my 2014 RX car - means something special to me. But it’s not a secret that my 2002 Subaru Impreza WRC has a special place in my heart.
Nationwide Vehicle Contracts would like to thank Petter for taking the time to answer our questions, as well as thanking PSRX's PR officer, Per-Espen Löchen and World RX's Rachel Cavers for their help in arranging this interview.
We'd like to wish Petter and the team at PSRX all the very best for the rest of the 2014 FIA World RX Championship with the Citroën DS3 RX as their weapon against a top quality field. (For more of our Track Talk Series, you can read more interviews here.)