Rally champ hits the brakes

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Petter Solberg, Norway’s world champion rally driver, has reluctantly parked his racing career after failing to reach a new agreement with Ford. Solberg, who made the rounds of Norwegian media outlets on Tuesday to comment on his retirement, made it clear he would have preferred to keep driving.

Petter Solberg was a reluctant retiree when appearing on NRK’s national nightly news program “Dagsrevyen” Tuesday evening. He wanted to keep driving but couldn’t come to terms with Ford. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

“It’s tough,” Solberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “I have to be glad about what I’ve done, but it’s a tough day after so many years in the sport.”

He decided to end his career as a rally driver after negotiations over a new works team broke down. Web site Nettavisen reported that Ford demanded payment from Solberg and he wasn’t willing to go along. He said he’d be willing to drive for free, but not to pay to drive.

“It’s not quite right to say that I’m not good enough any longer,” Solberg told NRK. “We’ve been competing at the top all along. This is all about economics. Ford didn’t have the possibility to go further.”

Solberg, who turned 38 last month, won the Rally World Championship in 2003 after already putting rally driving on the map in Norway. He also was popular abroad, becoming a well-known Norwegian from Japan to South America. He was comforted by the hundreds of messages of support he received throughout the day on Tuesday as news spread that he was retiring from the sport.

“There’s been an incredible number of messages, and I really value that,” Solberg said. “I have many fans all over the world who don’t want me to quit.”

In addition to winning the world championship, Solberg also won 13 world champion rounds during his career but things got tougher in recent years. After parting ways with Subaru he drove for Citroen for three seasons, ran his own team and then went back to Ford, where he’d started his career.

He didn’t seem entirely sure what he’ll do now. “There are several possibilities,” Solberg told NRK. “Both in Le Mans and Dakar. We’ll just have to analyze it all after awhile. The most important was just to close this book now, then we’ll start on a new chapter.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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