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Petter "Hollywood" Solberg (born 18 November 1974 in Askimmarker), from Spydebergmarker in Østfoldmarker, Norwaymarker, is a professional rally driver. He debuted in the World Rally Championship in 1998 and was signed by the Ford factory team in 1999. The following year, Solberg started his successful partnership with the Subaru World Rally Team.

With the Subaru works team, Solberg finished runner-up to Marcus Grönholm in 2002 and then became the first Norwegian to win the drivers' world title in 2003. In the following two seasons, he finished runner-up to Sébastien Loeb. Following Subaru's withdrawal from the WRC at the end of the 2008 season, Solberg secured private backing to start the Petter Solberg World Rally Team and competed with a 2005-spec Citroën Xsara WRC for the majority of the 2009 season, before switching to a 2008-spec Citroën C4 WRC for Rally Catalunya.

Career

Early career

Solberg won a nationwide RC car championship at the age of 13 as he inherited his interest of motorsport through his parents, mother Tove and father Terje, who were keen bilcross (an "inexpensive version" of Norwegian rallycross, similar to Swedish folkrace and Finnish jokamiehenluokka) competitors and rallycross enthusisasts. He used to help out around the home farm rebuilding competition cars, as he was not yet old enough to drive. Solberg entered his first bilcross in 1992, three days after his 18th birthday and only a day after he got his driving license. He went on to become Norwegian champion in rallycross as well as hillclimb in both 1995 (winning 19 out of 21 events) and 1996 (winning 15 out of 19 events). In 1998, he became the Norwegian Rally Champion (older brother Henning won this title five times in a row between 1999 and 2003).

WRC career

By this time and with the aid of his compatriot John "Mr Škoda" Haugland, who helped him on events in the late 1990s, the World Rally Championship team bosses were starting to recognize Solberg's potential and by the end of 1998, after winning a comparative test drive, he agreed to drive for three years as a junior pilot for the Ford Motor Company. Initially expected by Malcolm Wilson to maintain a somewhat lower profile, Solberg actually became a nominated points-scorer for Ford on, of all events, the gruelling test that was the Safari Rally in early 1999, after usual understudy to the team's star driver Colin McRae, Thomas Rådström, suffered an injury and was subsequently ruled out from taking part.

2000-04

In 2000, however, Solberg was able to leave Ford's M-Sport outfit prematurely, due to an insufficient contract, to sign with the Prodrive Subaru World Rally Team (SWRT), then led by a driving staff of Richard Burns and Juha Kankkunen. His first podium had to wait until the Acropolis Rally, Greecemarker the following year, as an altruistic Solberg forsook as many of his own points as possible, as he did in dropping voluntarily from 4th to 5th in Sanremo, to assist his senior team-mate Burns in sneaking to the title.

In 2002, with four-time champion Tommi Mäkinen installed as his new team-mate in the light of Burns' departure to Peugeot, Solberg won his first ever WRC event in Wales (Wales Rally GB) after a consistent display of driving prowess and an unlikely accident by Marcus Grönholm. In 2003, Solberg beat fellow WRC young-gun, Citroen-mounted Sébastien Loeb at the Wales Rally GB, launching him to his second win in Wales and his first (and to date, only) World Rally Championship title.

In his title defence, however, Solberg's winning of five of a possible sixteen events, including the hat-trick making Wales Rally GB, proved insufficient to deny the title to a now increasingly efficient Loeb. On Solberg's part, a perhaps unfortunate string of bad luck was encapsulated by three DNFs (retirements) in mid-season.

2005

Welcoming a new team-mate for the year in Australian Chris Atkinson, who replaced the disappointing Finn who had been the former Champion's SWRT team-mate throughout 2004, Mikko Hirvonen, Solberg started his 2005 season brightly as he sought an immediate answer to Loeb, the Norwegian winning two of the first three events, in Swedenmarker and Mexicomarker. These successes coincided with the early seizing of a championship lead. He was, however, soon overtaken by a rampant Loeb, and was left to score 71 points for the year, pipping Peugeot's Marcus Grönholm to the championship runner-up spot on a tie break.

He added an unwanted Wales Rally GB win after the death in a day three crash of fellow competitor Markko Martin's co-driver, Michael Park, with Loeb sacrificing his victory on the road in order to avoid having to simultaneously celebrate the title. Solberg won three rallies in all, though was severely affected by bad luck while challenging for wins at the end of the season, most notably on the Telstra Rally Australia, where he was forced to retire after striking a wayward kangaroo.

2006

For 2006, Solberg continued his partnership with the Subaru team, driving a new version of the Impreza WRC. His main sponsor was 24SevenOffice with a 5 million kroner sponsorship deal, a Norwegian record. His results, though, proved patchy in comparison to Loeb. While Loeb went on to register five rally victories on the bounce in a privately (Kronos) run Citroën Xsara WRC, his winning of the title unhampered even by breaking his arm at an advanced stage of the season, Solberg could only comparatively muster a handful of runner-up places on rallies all season — in Mexicomarker, Argentinamarker and Australia. Failure to claw his way any higher than sixth in the year's final points standings duly brought an end to the chain of top three drivers' championship appearances which Subaru had enjoyed since 1994.

2007

The Norwegian did, at least, get his 2007 season off to a rather more auspicious start, managing a joint-career-best finish of sixth place on the Rally Monte Carlo. He surrendered a potential third place finish in Sweden after a substantial time loss, as well as being bested by his brother, Henning, in the race for the final podium place on the siblings' home event - Rally Norway. In Mexico, Argentina and Sardinia Petter struggled with his Impreza — technical problems caused two retirements and a plummet down the leaderboard in Italymarker. Good pace in Portugal and taking third place on the Acropolis Rally at least appeared to mark a turnaround in the quality of the younger Solberg's results, although even Greek event wasn't problem-free for the Norwegian as he experienced some damper problems.

Despite Subaru's confidence in their car performance and reliability built up during summer break tests, Impreza S12A failed again — Solberg had to retire on day two in Finland, after monstrous handling and steering problems which engineers were unable to deal with. On the next round, Rallye Deutschland, where he finished sixth, car by itself was reliable, but Norwegian hit the rock on the SS5 heavily damaging the steering, which had cost him considerable amount of time because the team wasn't able to fully repair such vast impairment. New Zealand event was another problem-ridden outing for Solberg — he described the handling difficulties as similar to those experienced in Finland earlier.

Next round, Rally Catalunya, wasn't easy for Solberg too — he struggled to maintain the good pace and in the end finished sixth, almost 3 minutes adrift from the winner, Loeb. He was however pleased with changes in setup made for day 3, which seemed promising for the following 2007 Tour de Corse. Unfortunately for the Norwegian setup wasn't as good and he had problems with handling again which, along with a stalled engine on the start of SS5, caused him to slip down to fifth, behind young Jari-Matti Latvala. In Japan, his team's home event, Petter noted few top-ten times on the early stages, but crashed badly on SS5 then, probably due to damage sustained in accident, his gearbox locked in sixth gear, forcing his retirement for the day. He later rejoined the competition under SupeRally format and finished 16th, managing to score two points in Manufacturers' Championship. On the day of his 33rd birthday Solberg finished fifth in 1st Rally Ireland, calling it "the most difficult rally he has ever done"; also he found his car's performance better than in previous events.

On the final event of the season, Wales Rally GB, Solberg had consistent pace and won the battle for fourth with Spaniard Dani Sordo even though the Norwegian hit a rock in the morning and again had some minor driving issues. This result allowed SWRT to reclaim third place in Manufacturers' Championship. Petter Solberg ended the 2007 season in fifth place. He also took part in the 2007 Race of Champions, representing Norway, along with his brother, Henning. He didn't manage to win the first race with David Coulthard, but in Nation's Cup Norwegian brothers made their way to the semi-finals.

2008

For the 2008 season, Solberg and Atkinson were retained by SWRT as driving staff. Solberg started his season with a fifth place in Monte Carlo and fourth in Sweden, but went on to retire or finish outside point-scoring positions in the following four events. A radical new hatchback homologation of the long-serving Subaru Impreza, the WRC2008, debuted on the Acropolis Rally, marked by the Norwegian collecting a runner-up spot to Sébastien Loeb.

Although Solberg went on to break his personal record in consecutive point-scoring finishes, Acropolis remained his only podium of the season. He finished sixth overall in the drivers' championship, four points behind teammate Chris Atkinson, while Subaru took third place in the manufacturers' standings.

2009

Subaru announced on 16 December 2008 that they would not be participating in the World Rally Championship any longer, a mere day after Suzuki announced their retirement. Petter and co-driver Phil Mills were left without a ride. Looking at their options with the remaining teams they had to sit out the 2009 season opening Rally Ireland.After careful evaluation of several privateer options including Ford and Citroën cars, Solberg confirmed having acquired (most likely leased) a Citroën Xsara WRC (in 2005 WRC spec) as of 25 January 2009, and that Phil Mills and himself would return to the WRC in a privateer team for the 2009 Rally Norway. On 1 February 2009, Solberg indicated that five sponsors for the 2009 season are in place. The sponsors announced were Microsoft, Pareto, Hurtigruta Carglass and two undisclosed sponsors.

On 6 February 2009, Solberg officially unveiled the Petter Solberg World Rally Team, with himself as driver and Phil Mills as codriver. The team will serve Solberg and his 2005-spec. Citroën Xsara WRC with active suspension and diffs. A 13-member team, PSWRT employs ex-Subaru World Rally Team members Ken Rees as team manager, and François-Xavier "FX" Demaison as chief engineer. The PSWRT also returns Solberg's personal friend and ex-SWRT member, Tore Dahl, to the WRC scene as a mechanic. Swede Sven-Inge Neby, for about 40 years the engineer of Petter's father-in-law Per-Inge Walfridsson and his brothers Lars-Erik Walfridsson and Stig-Olov Walfridsson, is another support to the international team.

It took some time to adapt to the new car during their first round in Norway, but eventually Petter and Phil managed to secure a sixth place and three points in the drivers' championship. Following that result and a new engine from Citroën, Solberg finished third in the Cyprus Rally, being the first true privateer in a privately run team to be in the podium since Malcolm Wilson back in 1993. Solberg managed to repeat this feat in Sardinia.

Solberg and Mills retained their consistent fight for 3rd and 4th position through the three next rallies; Portugal, Argentina (Retired from 3rd position due to loss of fuel pressure on the final stage) and Italy. Solberg "threatened" to swap to a Peugeot 307, unless he got the 2006 spec upgrades for his Xsara. He received the upgrades (mainly improved intercooler and mechanical differentials) for rally Sardinia, which made them able to defend a 3rd place, in very hot conditions. Solberg expressed that they were unable to push harder in hot temperatures, and remained open to analyze what to do for the next events. Solberg was believed to be in talks of upgrading to a Peugeot 307 CC but decided to stick with the Xsara. After retiring from 2009 Rally Finland, Solberg decided to miss Rally Australia to concentrate on finding a more competitive car. After testing a Citroën C4 WRC in France, and a Ford Focus WRC in Britain, Solberg has confirmed he will drive a C4 at the final two rounds of the season, Rally Catalunya and Wales Rally GB. The car will be 2008-spec, but will feature updates to bring it as close as possible to the factory cars of Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo. Solberg will continue to drive for the Petter Solberg World Rally Team for Catalunya, but will be a nominated points scorer for the Citroen Junior Team at Wales Rally GB, alongside Sebastien Ogier.

Personal life

Solberg is married to a Swede, Pernilla Walfridsson, with whom he has a son, Oliver. Pernilla is the daughter of former Volvo factory driver and 1980 European Rallycross Champion, Per-Inge "Pi" Walfridsson (who also claimed a remarkable fourth overall in the 1973 RAC Rally). She was also, for some time, rated as possibly the world's fastest female rally driver.

WRC victories

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WRC results



References

  1. http://www.rallyireland.org/pdfs/2009/Program-entry-list-(GMA).pdf
  2. http://www.wrc.com/jsp/index.jsp?lnk=101&id=4783&desc=Solberg%20ponders%20switch%20to%20307
  3. http://www.pettersolberg.com/html/2009/01/25/det-blir-en-citroen-xsara/?lang_pref=en
  4. http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/distrikt/ostfold/sport_nrk_ostfold/1.6459120
  5. http://www.pettersolberg.com/html/2009/04/30/argentina-rapport-fra-elda/
  6. http://wrc.com/jsp/index.jsp?lnk=101&id=4783&desc=Solberg ponders switch to 307
  7. http://wrc.com/jsp/index.jsp?lnk=101&id=4859&desc=Solberg%20gets%20his%20upgrades
  8. http://www.crash.net/World+Rally/Feature/147355/3/sardinia__post-event_press_conference.html


External links



No.
Event
Season
Co-driver
Car
1
58th Network Q Rally of Great Britain
2002
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
2
31st Cyprus Rally
2003
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
3
16th Telstra Rally Australia
2003
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
4
47ème Tour de Corse - Rallye de France
2003
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
5
59th Wales Rally of Great Britain
2003
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
6
34th Propecia Rally New Zealand
2004
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
7
51st Acropolis Rally
2004
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
8
1st Rally Japan
2004
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
9
60th Wales Rally of Great Britain
2004
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
10
1º Supermag Rally d'Italia Sardinia
2004
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
11
54th Uddeholm Swedish Rally
2005
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
12
19º Corona Rally México
2005
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
13
61st Wales Rally of Great Britain
2005
Phil Mills
Subaru Impreza WRC
Year
Entrant
Car
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
WDC
Points
1998
Shell Norge
Toyota Celica GT-Four
MON
SWE

16
KEN
POR
ESP
FRA
ARG
GRC
NZL
FIN
ITA
AUS
-
0
Petter Solberg
GBR

Ret
1999
Ford Motor Co
Ford Escort WRC
MON
SWE

11
18th
2
Ford Focus WRC
KEN

5
POR

11
ESP
FRA
ARG
GRC
NZL
CHN
ITA

27
AUS
GBR

9
Petter Solberg
FIN

12
2000
Ford Motor Co
Ford Focus WRC 00
MON
SWE
KEN

5
POR

Ret
ESP
ARG

6
GRC

Ret
NZL

4
FIN

Ret
CYP
10th
6
Petter Solberg
Subaru Impreza WRC2000
FRA

Ret
ITA

9
Subaru World Rally Team
AUS

Ret
GBR

Ret
2001
Subaru World Rally Team
Subaru Impreza WRC2001
MON

Ret
SWE

6
POR

Ret
ESP

Ret
ARG

5
CYP

Ret
GRE

2
KEN

Ret
FIN

7
NZL

7
ITA

9
FRA

5
AUS

7
GBR

Ret
10th
11
2002
555 Subaru World Rally Team
Subaru Impreza WRC2001
MON

6
SWE

Ret
2nd
37
Subaru Impreza WRC2002
FRA

5
ESP

5
CYP

5
ARG

2
GRE

5
KEN

Ret
FIN

3
GER

Ret
ITA

3
NZL

Ret
AUS

3
GBR

1
2003
555 Subaru World Rally Team
Subaru Impreza WRC2003
MON

Ret
SWE

6
TUR

Ret
NZL

3
ARG

5
GRE

3
CYP

1
GER

8
FIN

2
AUS

1
ITA

Ret
FRA

1
ESP

5
GBR

1
1st
72
2004
555 Subaru World Rally Team
Subaru Impreza WRC2003
MON

7
SWE

3
2nd
82
Subaru Impreza WRC2004
MEX

4
NZL

1
CYP

4
GRE

1
TUR

3
ARG

Ret
FIN

Ret
GER

Ret
JPN

1
GBR

1
ITA

1
FRA

5
ESP

5
AUS

Ret
2005
Subaru World Rally Team
Subaru Impreza WRC2004
MON

Ret
SWE

1
2nd
71
Subaru Impreza WRC2005
MEX

1
NZL

3
ITA

2
CYP

Ret
TUR

2
GRE

9
ARG

3
FIN

4
GER

7
GBR

1
JPN

Ret
FRA

3
ESP

13
AUS

Ret
2006
Subaru World Rally Team
Subaru Impreza WRC2006
MON

Ret
SWE

Ret
MEX

2
ESP

7
FRA

11
ARG

2
ITA

9
GRE

7
GER

Ret
FIN

Ret
JPN

7
CYP

8
TUR

13
AUS

2
NZL

6
GBR

3
6th
40
2007
Subaru World Rally Team
Subaru Impreza WRC2006
MON

6
SWE

Ret
NOR

4
5th
47
Subaru Impreza WRC2007
MEX

Ret
POR

2
ARG

Ret
ITA

5
GRE

3
FIN

Ret
GER

6
NZL

7
ESP

6
FRA

5
JPN

16
IRE

5
GBR

4
2008
Subaru World Rally Team
Subaru Impreza WRC2007
MON

5
SWE

4
MEX

11
ARG

Ret
JOR

Ret
ITA

10
6th
46
Subaru Impreza WRC2008
GRE

2
TUR

6
FIN

6
GER

5
NZL

4
ESP

5
FRA

5
JPN

8
GBR

4
2009
Petter Solberg World Rally Team
Citroën Xsara WRC
IRL
NOR

6
CYP

3
POR

4
ARG

Ret
ITA

3
GRC

Ret
POL

4
FIN

Ret
AUS
5th
35
Citroën C4 WRC
ESP

4
GBR

4

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