Fan favourite Petter Solberg, one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s most charismatic drivers, will end his professional career at this year’s Wales Rally GB (3-6 October) driving Volkswagen Motorsport’s Polo GTI R5.
The 2003 World Rally Champion is no stranger to Britain’s WRC encounter; he’s started it 15-times and won it no fewer than four times. Between 2002 and 2005, he and co-driver Phil Mills dominated the world championship’s Welsh stages. Mills will be dusting off his overalls once more and will return to revive the winning partnership.
Oliver Solberg was just one-year-old when his father started that extraordinary period of dominance of Wales Rally GB. This year the highly-rated young gun will be 18 and he will make his WRC debut in an identical Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to that of his father in Wales.
“This is absolutely wonderful news,” said Hugh Chambers, CEO of Motorsport UK, organiser of Wales Rally GB. “As a four-time winner, Petter holds a very special place in Rally GB history and, being such a legend, is loved by rally fans all around the world. Oliver is clearly a chip off the old block and has already proved himself to be a star of the future. To have father and son competing against each other – and the best in the world – in Wales will be very, very special. We can’t wait to see who comes out on top!”
The Llandudno-based event marks the changing of the WRC guard in the Solberg household. The next generation has arrived on the sport’s highest stage… though Oliver’s entry is, obviously, dependent on him passing his driving test in Sweden ahead of the event!
Petter said: “Wales Rally GB has always been a special one for me and the chance to bring my professional World Rally Championship career to a close there is fantastic.
“There are so many memories from this rally, it’s an event which has really been one of the highlights of my career – winning my first-ever WRC round, then winning the championship a year later was so special. And so special for my co-driver Phil [Mills], who lives there.
“It is going to be an emotional rally, especially competing on a WRC round for the first time with my son Oliver. It’s an incredible moment for the Solberg family as one chapter closes and another one opens.”
Petter announced his Farewell Tour earlier this season and kicked that off with an outstanding trip to the Goodwood Festival of Speed (July 4-7), where he and Oliver stole the show – not to mention the hearts of hundreds of thousands of fans – as they turned on the speed and style in West Sussex.
Petter continued: “Rally GB is part of my Farewell Tour which is something that’s so important to me. I didn’t want to just make a press release talking about what I’d done in the sport and what a good time I’d had. I always wanted to get out there and do what I’ve always loved to do, what my life has been about: driving competitively.
“All of my career, the fans and spectators have been really close with me and I want this chance to see them all again and give them something to smile about. I started with the Festival of Speed at Goodwood which was a fantastic event – I’m sure Wales is going to be the same as well.
“But as well as thanking the fans and the media, I have to say a big thank you to Volkswagen Motorsport for their support with my Farewell Tour and to my long-term partner Monster Energy.
“For me and for once, the competition isn’t absolutely everything. Like I say, I want to enjoy this rally and driving Volkswagen’s Polo GTI R5 and I really can’t wait to share a round of the world championship with Oliver. I hope I can share this moment with you as well.”
Oliver, already a rally winner on both sides of the Atlantic, is equally excited.
“Fantastic. Just incredible,” he enthused. “I have so many memories of papa driving and winning in this rally. Earlier this year I was over doing some testing in the Sweet Lamb stage and honestly it gave me the [goose] bumps on my arm when I was driving there for the first time.”
Fans wishing to bid farewell to Petter and at the same time welcome Oliver to the WRC fray, can take advantage of early bird tickets now on offer with adult admission for the 22 competitive stages starting at just £15. Accompanied children aged 15 and under enjoy free admittance to all 22 stages.
Full details of these – and the current early bird promotion offering significant savings – can be found on the walesrallygb.com website.