NORWAY’S colourful WRC Champion Petter Solberg has called time on his professional driving career.
PHOTO: Petter Solberg finished third in a private Citroën on his final Rally Australia appearance on the Coffs Coast in 2011 (Jeremy Rogers pic)
The 44-year-old drove for Ford, Subaru and his own team in 14 seasons in the WRC, winning the 2003 title and that year’s Rally Australia with Subaru following a fierce battle with then Citroën star Sébastien Loeb.
He was the only man to beat nine-time champion Loeb across a full season of WRC action and remains the only driver to win FIA World Championship titles in two disciplines. He backed up his WRC crown with World Rallycross championships in 2014/15.
A perennial favourite for his approachability, which earned him the nickname “Hollywood”, Solberg contested Rally Australia in Western Australia for the Subaru World Rally Team from 2000 to 2006 – in 2005/6 with Australian teammate Chris Atkinson – and on the NSW Coffs Coast in 2011 in a privateer Citroën.
More recently Solberg helped Volkswagen develop its Polo GTI WRC 2 car and gave it a world debut in Spain last October.
He told WRC.com: “I’ve been fortunate enough to compete at the highest level for 20 years. This is the right time for me to stop chasing the championships.
“But I’m definitely not stopping completely. I will never hang up my helmet or switch the engine off – I love rallying and I love driving too much. I will do some more high-profile events.”
Solberg suffered a lung disease in the past two years and admitted the illness, from which he has recovered, influenced his decision to step back from season-long competition.
“I had no energy,” he said. “And now the energy is back I want to do something new. As well as this, my son Oliver is competing in rallies with Subaru now and I want to have time to support him. It’s about the future now.
“I’m so proud of what I achieved and now is a good time to do some events to see the fans and say thank you for the support through my career.”
Solberg will contest a series of events in a ‘farewell tour’ starting with the popular Goodwood Festival of Speed in July in the UK.