Petter Solberg is one of motorsport's most spectacular drivers
Solberg is racing in the World Rallycross championship
Solberg races for the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team
Solberg won the 2003 World Rally Championship with Subaru
Solberg won back-to-back World Rallycross titles in 2014 and ’15 in a Citroën DS3 supercar
This weekend, Solberg and the WorldRX field will race at Lydden Hill for the final time
Anybody who complains that modern-day motorsport is devoid of personalities has clearly never met Petter Solberg.
During his rallying days, the effervescent Norwegian earned the nickname ‘Hollywood’ for both his spectacular, full-commitment driving style and his exuberant antics out of the car.
Since 2013, Solberg, the 2003 World Rally champion, has plied his trade in rallycross – and he’s a perfect fit for the all-action, made-for-TV discipline.
Driving a Citroën DS3 supercar for his own PSRX team, Solberg claimed back-to-back FIA World Rallycross Championship titles in 2014 and 2015 before losing the crown to Audi A1-driving rival Mattias Ekström last year.
For this season, Solberg has switched to the new PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team. The squad runs a pair of Volkswagen Polo GTI supercars for Solberg and Johan Kristoffersson. After a steady start to the season in the first three events, the team hit its stride at the last round in Belgium, with Kristoffersson leading Solberg home in the final.
This weekend, WorldRX heads to the storied Lydden Hill circuit. The Kent circuit was where the sport was born, as a one-off event in February 1967 designed to fill airtime on ITV’s World of Sport. This will be the final time – for now, at least – that the World Rallycross Championship will visit Lydden, with the British round switching to a new track at Silverstone next year.
We caught up with Solberg ahead of the weekend to ask about his season so far, and his experiences of racing at Lydden.
Q: How do you judge your season so far?
“It’s been fantastic. We started this project in January. It was talked about for a long time, but we only made the decision then, so there was a lot of work to get everything ready.
“We’ve shown a lot of performance, but we’ve had a few issues to sort out. Now those are done, we’ve shown a lot of performance. We’re leading the teams’ championship, which is our main goal this year, so it’s not bad.”
Q: How have you adjusted to the Polo after the Citroën DS3 (pictured below)?
“The Polo is a fantastic car. It’s good fun to drive, really easy. We’re developing it all the time and going forward. But it’s a hard competition, and we can’t sit still.”
Q: The racing has been very close this year…
“The sport is unbelievable. The competition between the teams and drivers, and how they work, is amazing. The teams are so professional and the drivers are at such a high level. This is what makes the sport so good – you can’t predict a winner.”
Q: Reigning champion Mattias Ekström had a fantastic start to the year, but you and Johan beat him in the last round in Belgium. How important was that?
“That was a very important race. I gave him the victory in Portugal after a puncture, and we’ve been going better and better. Belgium was a crucial race for us. We closed the gap in the championship, and we’re only 14 points behind, which is acceptable.”
Q: Did you think it would take a few events before you could challenge?
“We knew Mattias would be good, and he’s been driving his car for more than three years now. It took him two years to get it really good – we’ve had four months with the Polo. We’re in a good position, and we’ve got a lot of experience to help, especially with the support of Volkswagen Motorsport.”
Q: This weekend will be the championship’s final trip to Lydden Hill. How much do you want to do well there?
“We really want to do well, for sure. I want to try to end on the top in Lydden Hill. We’ve been fast there every year.
“It’s sad it’s going because it’s an iconic circuit and a fantastic track. It would be good to have both Lydden and Silverstone on the calendar, but it’s a good move to go to Silverstone. It’s a unique place with a lot of possibilities.”
Q: What’s the secret to doing well at Lydden?
“It’s a difficult track. It’s quite fast, and you really need to have a good chassis there to go fast and attack. It’s obviously a track that suits me well, and it should suit the car very well. It’s very important to have the set-up correct on lots of the corners.”
Q: There’s always a good crowd at Lydden. What are the fans like?
“It’s always been good in Britain, whether I’ve been doing rally or rallycross. They have such passion for cars, and the good fights that rallycross produces means they’ll have plenty to watch. It’ll be great, and I think there could be a record crowd this weekend.”