Petter Solberg’s home round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship should have been a massive party for the 2003 World Rally Champion: the local hero. But instead, for the second successive weekend, it turned into a nightmare – through absolutely no fault of his own.
Having been comfortably quickest on the opening day in Hell, Norway, ‘Hollywood’ was looking forward to going through to the finals in front of his home fans, on an amazing circuit. But it was sadly not to be.
During the third heat, British driver Liam Doran – who went on to win – turned into Petter, breaking the Citroen’s suspension. With the fourth heat coming up quickly afterwards, the damage couldn’t be completely repaired in time. Petter asked for extra time to complete the job on safety grounds, but the request was not granted and so the writing was on the wall for the popular Norwegian.
Once again Petter suffered a suspension problem in heat four when the assembly broke loose – a direct result of the aggressive contact in the third heat – and as a result, the Norwegian just missed out on a place in the semi-final. It was a tragedy for Petter, competing at home, and a cruel reward for everyone in the team who has put in so much hard work since the start of the season.
Petter said: “That wasn’t very nice at all from Liam Doran: not the sort of thing you would expect from another rallycross driver. Exactly the same thing happened in Finland last weekend. After heat three, I asked the organisers for an extra half-minute so my mechanics could properly repair the suspension, but we weren’t allowed the extra time. So of course we knew before we even started the race that the suspension would break again, and sadly that’s exactly what happened. I couldn’t really do anything but struggle to the finish line.”
Saturday’s dominant performance – as has so often been the case this year – demonstrated exactly what Petter was capable of. He undoubtedly had the pace to seal his first rallycross overall victory at home, which would have meant so much to him and his fans.
“It’s just so sad that I wasn’t able to show my home crowd what I really can do,” added Petter. “This was the most important race of the year for my sponsors, the team and myself, obviously. I feel really confident with the car now but there’s not much you can do about situations like the one we found ourselves in today. It’s real pity but the positives we can take away are the speed that we showed again and the huge support we enjoyed from all the fans. I’d like to thank everybody so much for coming: next time, we’re going to do it…”
The following round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship is at Holjes in Sweden – another home event for Petter, as the team is based in Torsby – from 6-7 July.