Fri 24 May 2024

ERC Take Five with Petter Solberg

With a charisma to match his outstanding talent, Petter Solberg is coming out of semi-retirement to contest BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia, his ‘home’ round of the FIA European Rally Championship, next month. This is what the 49-year-old from Norway has had to say ahead of an event won by his son Oliver last season.

As a world champion and a driver who always gives his all to win, to what extent are you putting your reputation on the line by taking on such a competitive field?
“I will be 50 this year and I think this can be really good fun. Oliver is doing everything by himself now, Pernilla [my wife is the FIA WRC Commission president] and I’m alone. So this is more like a motivation thing to see through the rally what my speed can be. If you look at Carlos Sainz in Dakar I have quite a few years to drive to be honest and if I want to do something for the future I have to start again and build up. The rally is based so close to the workshop, my Polo was there, nobody is using it and it was asking, ‘Petter, please take me out for a ride,’ basically.”

And you’ll be taking it out for a ride on some really spectacular stages. How well do you know the route of this year’s BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia?
“It’s only one stage I’ve done from the early days, from my time, and that was Colin’s Crest (Vargåsen), all the rest I have never done in my whole life. Two times recce will be my tough part with the pacenotes, to trust them 100 per cent to be honest. I did one stage with my mother last year but that was without pacenotes. It’s like people said last year, ‘Oliver, it’s your home rally, you know this area’, but he had never done a rally here. It was a brand new rally for him last year and it will be a new rally for me also.”

You do have some experience behind the wheel of your Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. Can it still be a competitive proposition and is there a chance that Oliver will make it a father and son on the entry list?
“For sure it’s not as powerful as the Škoda and maybe the Citroën and Toyota. But the car is good, that’s not a problem. And also when Oliver drove it last year all was not right. Now it’s right for this year. It’s a good chassis. Oliver don’t have the budget so far so it’s a little bit tricky. He’s working on the budget but if he doesn’t have the budget there’s no driving, it’s very simple.”

What do you think of the competition in the ERC right now?
“There’s a lot of good pace and a lot of good cars, so many. My passion has always been around rallying and it has to be something in rallying if I am going to do something. For sure it’s going to be tough competition. The Qualifying Stage will be crucial but if you want to drive you have to jump into it, that’s it. It’s my time now. I have butterflies in my stomach and I am really looking forward to it. But it’s all about testing your pacenotes. Driving is not a problem I think but it’s the pacenotes, to trust them to go flat out.”  

Your last ERC appearance was on the South Swedish Rally way back in 1998. How important were events like that in terms of getting noticed and being given a chance in the WRC?
“It was a big moment for sure, there was always a lot of fighting for the positions. I remember Rally GB in 2019 I was faster and faster through the race after half a day of testing. Now I will have two days testing so we will see [what opportunities this can bring].” 

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM