Former World Rally Champion Petter Solberg – known throughout the world as ‘Hollywood’ due to his spectacular showman style – is about to give the green light to the latest chapter of his career at the opening round of the 2013 FIA European Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom this weekend.
But for Petter, who won his world title in 2003, it’s more a question of going back to his roots. The Norwegian started off his career in rallycross, thrashing various old Volvos first around his parents’ farm, and then when it got more serious, around the rallycross circuits of Scandinavia.
Petter’s challenger for 2013 – a hand-built, state-of-the-art Citroen DS3 Supercar, which uses plenty of WRC technology – couldn’t present a bigger contrast from those early days. Neither could the slickly-promoted nine-round championship, which benefits from Monster backing this year not to mention a multi-million television and live audience, with promotion from global media firm IMG.
It wouldn’t be Hollywood without a drama though, and Petter and his hand-picked team faced a race against time to prepare their challenger in time for round one at Lydden Hill in Great Britain this weekend: a historic venue that is synonymous with rallycross.
“We’ve had to do everything ourselves, from raising the finance to building the car, so we were still putting the finishing touches to the car the week before our first event before we went testing,” said Solberg. “I put a hundred per cent passion into everything I do, but honestly, I can’t remember working so hard or feeling this excited about the start of a season for a long time. It feels very special and absolutely right to be doing this: it’s where my roots are and a sport where you are really close to the fans, which always inspires me. I tell you: this car is quite something!”
And for once, that’s an understatement. With around 600 horsepower, four-wheel drive and six-speed sequential gearbox, Petter’s Citroen DS3 Supercar can accelerate from 0-100 kph in nearly the same time as a Formula One car. On gravel.
“Driving this car is a really special feeling: it’s like having a rocket strapped to your backside,” added Petter, after testing the car for two days in France. “What I love most about it is that you can put on a really spectacular show. It’s going to be a lot of fun, but at the same time there’s a very serious objective this year. We had a lot of work to do at the test in France but it went well and now we feel prepared. Of course you never know how you’re going to get on until you go up against everyone else but we’ve got a good base to work from and I’m very happy. Now we just have to hope for good weather and lots of spectators this weekend!”
The drivers go head-to-head in a series of heats at each round to determine the winner, with 15 permanent drivers plus a selection of one-off ‘wildcards’ contesting the season.