Petter Solberg - Subaru
Date of birth: 18/11/1974
Team: Subaru World Rally Team
Co-driver: Phil Mills
World Titles: FIA World Driver Champion 2003
WRC debut: Sweden 1998
WRC wins: 13
WRC points at end of 2007: 368
First WRC win: Rally GB 2002
2005: Drivers’ title runner-up.
2004: Drivers’ title runner-up.
2003: Wins drivers’ title with four wins for Subaru
2002: Scored first win on Wales Rally GB
2001: Second in Greece.
2000: Moved to Subaru in mid-season.
1999: Joined Ford and was fifth on Safari.
Petter Solberg’s is also known as ‘Hollywood’. And this name is absolutely apt for dramatic, extravagant, and amiable Norwegian. The 2003 world champion is as far from the stereotypical, quiet Scandinavian as you could imagine, and proudly wears his heart on his sleeve. No-one else in the World Rally Championship has as much enthusiasm for the sport, and no-one certainly has fans, in the same vicinity as Petter’s barmy army. His fans have been renowned to match his enthusiasm. Having said all this about his personality traits, I think that it is best to point out, at this point, that he is also one of the fastest drivers ever to step behind the wheel of a rally car.
Solberg’s has always driven his Subaru on the extreme limits. With a disco-dancing background, it is no surprise that he displays a similar vigour, passion and sideways panache when behind the wheel of his raging Subaru. He started competing in rallycross and hillclimbing, before turning to rallying. In 1998, he won the Norwegian national title, but more importantly badgered Ford boss Malcolm Wilson into giving him a test. Wilson was impressed enough to give Solberg a drive for 1999.
Midway through 2000, though, Solberg controversially jumped ship to Subaru. He has since made the team his natural home.It was a difficult start, as much of Solberg’s enthusiasm to impress resulted in hefty accidents, but as 2001 evolved into 2002, Solberg matured more and in the season-ending Rally GB, he took his first victory. He had emerged as a title contender and a star for the future. In 2003, the drivers’ title was his after a fine display of raw speed, grit under duress and commitment. Although he lost out in 2004, 2005 and 2006 to Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb, he showed the hunger was still there and he’ll be eager to return to title-winning ways this year.
Rally drivers rarely believe in luck, but many of its fans do. Solberg’s luck in recent seasons has been almost disastrous. The former World Champion has not scored a WRC victory since the 12th round of the 2005 season. Solberg claimed two podium positions in 2007, and he finished the season 69 points off the title. Solberg’s fortunes are bound to change, and when they do, one of the sport’s quickest drivers will surely balze the trail again.