He’s only been competing in rallycross since the start of this year – before then he only did it for fun, and that was back in 1996…. But Petter ‘Hollywood’ Solberg has already taken the FIA European Rallycross Championship by storm, going as far as the semi-final at round one in England before his power steering failed, and then reaching the final in round two in Portugal, breaking the Montalegre lap record in the process.
Now it’s time for round three of the nine-round series, which takes place at Nyirad in Hungary this weekend. ‘Hollywood’ is aiming firmly for the top step of the podium, having already shown his blistering speed on the first two rounds of the championship.
He’s done all this with a Citroen DS3 Supercar built from scratch in three weeks. And the work certainly hasn’t stopped there either. Since both the opening rounds, development has continued apace – Petter describes this year’s campaign as “the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. That obviously includes winning a World Rally Championship title…
17 May was a national holiday in Norway: known as the National Day of Norway or the Nasjonaldagen. It commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the Norwegian constitution at Eidsvoll in 1814, and Norwegians celebrate it with party parades in traditional costume.
Petter and his team celebrated it with a test close to the Petter Solberg RX Team base in Sweden. Having worked hard on the car for weeks on end, concentrating on extracting the maximum possible performance, they have finally managed to find another 80 horsepower – which should make a big difference out on the track.
The Norwegian said: “First of all we concentrated on trying to get the reliability of the car right, then we wanted to improve the speed. We’ve been working so hard on both of these things and now I think we’re really getting somewhere. The main thing is that we’ve got another 80 horsepower and that’s going to make a big, big difference – especially when it comes to getting off the line. I can really feel it.”
Given that Petter’s pace already allowed him to finish eight seconds ahead of his nearest rival during the semi-finals in Portugal last month, the latest evolution of his DS3 Supercar is set to take Hungary by storm.
The Nyirad circuit is located in the south west of Hungary, 195 kilometres from Budapest and 185 kilometres from Vienna. It’s also very close to Lake Balaton, which is one of Hungary’s biggest tourist attractions. The 1.220-kilometre track is composed of 52% asphalt and 48% gravel, varying in width from 10 to 16 metres. It’s the only FIA-sanctioned off-road circuit in Hungary, which is hosting the FIA European Rallycross Championship for the seventh time in 2013.
All the events are of course observed by the FIA, and last year Nyirad scored the most combined points in the stewards’ and observers’ reports, making it officially the most popular round of the championship. The track has a bit of everything: a tight infield section on gravel combined with some faster straights and corners on asphalt.
“All the circuits are new to me so it doesn’t make any difference, but I’m looking forward to it all a lot,” said Petter, who tested for a day and a half before packing up the all-carbon car for Hungary. “Wherever we go we’ve had a lot of support from all the fans and with the latest things that we have on the car it should be a really good weekend. Whatever happens, everyone in our team should be very proud: we have a fantastic car now. And there is even more to come…”