- November 18, 1974
- Not Active
Petter Solberg is the best and the most successful Norwegian rally driver ever. Although there were some great names from Norway in the history of world rallying, in 2003, Solberg became the first (and so far the only) World Rally Champion from that Nordic country.
Eleven years later, he took the 2014 World Rallycross Championship title and then repeated his FIA World RX triumph in 2015.
The triple world champ was born in the Norwegian village of Askim, in a family of petrolheads. Father Terje and mother Tove were rallycross and bilcross competitors, so Petter expressed interest in racing from the early years. However, to participate in official racing, he had to wait until he got a driving licence. In the meantime, he raced with RC (radio-controlled) cars and at the age of 13, he won his first championship.
Three days after turning 18 and getting his licence, the young Solberg entered his first rallycross event. In the following three years, he progressed to the top of Norwegian rallycross and became the national champion in 1995 and 1996. In 1995, he discovered stage rallying and a new career path was undertaken. His first rally car was Volvo 240. In 1998, he became the Norwegian Rally champion behind the wheel of Toyota Celica GT-Four. With the same car, he entered two WRC events that year (Swedish Rally and Network Q Rally GB).
At the beginning of 1999, he competed with Ford Escort WRC at the Swedish Rally. Shortly after that, he was surprisingly recruited by the Ford factory team to compete at the Safari Rally as a replacement for the factory driver Thomas Radstrom who broke his leg at the team hotel.
His debut with Ford Focus RS WRC was fantastic, as he finished 5th. He competed in four more WRC events in the 1999 season, with the best result being the 9th place at Network Q Rally GB. In 2000, he started the season with Ford and finished with Subaru.
He was a part of the Subaru Rally Team from 2000 to 2008, when Subaru factory team withdrew from world rallying. In 2001, he scored his first WRC podium at Acropolis Rally, but he waited for his first victory until the last event of the 2002 season. He won the British round and finished the championship as runner-up, behind Marcus Gronholm.
On the same rally, one year later, he clinched the world title in one of the most exciting championship finals in history. He won the rally ahead of Sebastien Loeb and took the title with only one point difference ahead of the Frenchman. Solberg was the last one who had beaten Loeb before he started the winning streak of nine consecutive world titles.
In his days of biggest popularity, Solberg was nicknamed Hollywood, because he was adored by the crowd and he became known by spectacular victory celebrations. After 8 seasons with Subaru in which he scored 13 victories, one world title and three-times 2nd place, there was no room for Petter in the leading WRC teams. So, in record time, he built his own team from scratch, rescuing an ageing Citroen Xsara WRC from a museum. During 2009, he was competitive against new Citroens and Fords, scored two podiums and finished fifth in the championship standings.
In 2010, Petter Solberg was more successful. Although without wins, he scored eight podiums driving Citroën C4 WRC and finished third in the championship, behind Citroen's and Ford's factory drivers Loeb and Latvala. After one more season as a privateer, he was again recruited to Ford's factory team for 2012. After five podiums and a fifth place at the end of the season, Petter decided that it was time for a new challenge and his old love - the rallycross.
Once again he built his own team, using his winning charm to gain sponsorship while recruiting friends, family and trusted experts to move the project forwards. He still found time to win the historic section of Rally Sweden three years in a row (2013-2015), driving his own Ford Escort MkII with his wife Pernilla as co-driver.
After the first year of adjustment through the European Rallycross Championship events, Petter pushed the pedal to the metal in 2014 and driving a modified Citroën DS3 Supercar, he won the inaugurative season of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, becoming one of the few world champions in different motorsport disciplines. In the 2015 World RX season, he received one more world title, again with the DS3 Supercar, after winning three championship rounds.
In 2016, his third year with Citroen DS3 Supercar, Solberg was again among the front-runners, but he won only one race and lost the battle for the championship crown. The 2016 World RX champion was Mattias Ekstrom.
In 2017, Solberg's team and Volkswagen RX Sweden formed the PSRX Volkswagen Team Sweden, running two VW Polo Supercars for Petter and Johan Kristoffersson. The team captured championship title and Kristoffersson became drivers' champion. They repeated the same in 2018, with incredible eleven wins of Kristoffersson. Solberg himself finished fifth in the championship.
Petter was born and he started his career in a family of petrolheads, motivated by his parents, but his own family was similar. He is married to a Swede, Pernilla Walfridsson, the daughter of the former Volvo factory driver and 1980 European Rallycross Champion Per-Inge Walfridsson.
Pernilla was also, for some time, one of the world's leading female rally drivers. She competed at 14 World Rally Championship events between 1997 and 2000. So, when you have a father racer and a mother racer, it's natural that the son also must be a racer. Petter's son Oliver, born in 2001, started a career as a crosskart driver and participated as his father's co-driver at some historic rally events. In 2017, he expanded his activities to rallycross, using father's old Citroen DS3 Supercar.
In 2019, Petter announced retirement from racing while Oliver joined Subaru as a factory driver in the North American rally championship.
In October, the historical meeting happened at Wales Rally. It was Petter's last WRC event in a career and he won the WRC2 class in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, sharing a car with Phil Mills. On the other side, his son Oliver made a WRC debut in another VW Polo.
Photos: fiaworldrallycross.com, pettersolberg.com, motorsport.com, Honza Fronek/ewrc.cz.
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