Petter Solberg says the two weeks leading up to his European Rallyxross debut were the toughest of his motor sport career.
The 2003 World Rally Champion has, for now, turned his back on WRC to concentrate instead on the revamped RX championship with his own team and car, a Citroen DS3. With 550bhp it boasts almost twice the power of a current WRC machine.
His first outing was in the season’s opening round at Britain’s Lydden Hill circuit and it was anything but trouble-free as a number of mechanical problems – chiefly transmission-related – threatened his participation. In one race the problems led to his car lurching forward before the lights turned green and then not moving at all at the re-start. In another heat Solberg also forgot to complete his joker lap – a mandatory longer version of track for all drivers – and picked up a penalty.
But when his Citroen did run properly Solberg was one of the stars of the show as wins in two other heats demonstrated. In typical Solberg style he was also the biggest showman of the weekend, opening his door and standing on the doorsill to salute the crowd on the slow-down lap following his pair of victories.
“It’s been good fun to come here and when everything worked we were at the front,” he told redbull.com. “I have some issues that we’ve had to work very hard to get through. Some of the stuff needs to be fixed quite quickly.”
“In fact I’d say the hardest thing in my whole life was what I’ve been trying to do here before this race,” he added, eluding to a deal with the crack Hansen Motorsport team which fell apart less than a month earlier.
“That put me in a very difficult situation,” he continued. “I had to get everything ready in a very short time, about two weeks. The three things we had problems with were the three things I would have put on a list that we’d have problems with to be honest with you. At one point I was quite sure we were getting on top of it but it still happened.
“The car is good when it works. It was fast. But a lot of the other teams are very, very good and they’re working hard. We need just to change a lot of things on the car and the things we had problems with.”
Solberg’s non-stop energy, big contacts book and a phone that rings more than it doesn’t – our interview with him is twice interrupted by calls and the need to dive into a meeting – is bound to have those problems solved soon. He also says he’s impressed with the new-look Rallycross RX scene and believes it has a strong future but doesn’t necessarily think he can offer any advice to bold new promoter IMG.
He said: “It’s getting more and more, the buzz about rallycross. It can be very interesting to see how it develops. The cars and the trucks now are getting very nice. I think we just need a bit more reliability from some of the cars, not just mine!
“I just try to do my thing for the public. There are so many people here and I would have shown off more if the car had been more reliable, but I had to be a bit careful with it. That will come… we will make much more fun later this year.”