Petter Solberg back on top

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More than a decade after winning the rally world championship in 2003, Norwegian racer Petter Solberg was thrilled to be back on top after winning the World Rallycross Championship, too. His victory in Italy over the weekend makes him the first to ever win in two different professional car sports.

Petter Solberg was spraying lots of champagne after becoming the new world champion in rally cross on Sunday. PHOTO: Facebook

Petter Solberg was spraying lots of champagne after becoming the new world champion in rally cross on Sunday. PHOTO: Facebook

“Incredible,” Solberg shouted himself as he celebrated with his team in Franciacorta on Sunday. “I’m so happy!”

His third-place finish on Sunday gave him enough points for a combined victory in the FIA World Rallycross Championship inaugural. He was leading with 60 points over challenger Toomas Heikkinen of Finland.

News bureau NTB reported it was a dramatic round in northern Italy, with several drivers encountering problems and dropping out, including Andreas Bekkerud of Norway. Solberg also had some mechanical trouble, but still managed to steer his way into third place and the championship, two rounds before it ends.

At age 39, Solberg had parked his rally driving days two years ago after failing to reach a new deal with Ford. He had made it clear he wanted to keep driving and racing, and ended up concentrating on rallycross. It’s not lucrative, and not at all like the days when he earned NOK 60 million (USD 10 million) when he drove for Subaru, but he clearly thinks it’s fun.

“Now we have 20 people on the team, with Subaru we had 250,” he told newspaper Aftenposten on the phone from Italy. “The first victory is always the biggest, but building this all from scratch, building the car and the team, this is special. So I’m just happy.”

Racing has now actually become an expense instead of providing income, and he’s reportedly spent around NOK 30 million on his new trailer, bus, Citröen, equipment and workers. Now he stands a much better chance of attracting sponsors and building his own rallycross empire, said a spokesman.

He’ll celebrate his 40th birthday in November and shows no signs of braking anytime soon. “Now I’ll focus on the next (and last) two championship rounds,” said Solberg, who hails from Spydeberg, southeast of Oslo. “Then there also are other dreams lying in the book back home.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund