Petter Solberg is as far from the stereotypical, quiet Scandinavian as you could imagine. The extravagant and amiable Norwegian wears his heart on his sleeve and lives his life how he drives his cars – on the edge, with vigour, passion and panache.
He started competing in rallycross and hillclimbing before turning to rallying. In 1998 he won the Norwegian title and impressed Ford enough to earn a drive for 1999. But midway through 2000 Solberg controversially jumped ship to Subaru, where he remained for eight years.
Solberg’s enthusiasm to impress resulted in some big accidents, but in 2002 he took his first victory in Britain. The following season the drivers’ title was his after a fine display of raw speed and commitment.
He was runner-up to Sébastien Loeb in 2004 and 2005, but from then on, while Solberg’s hunger for success was still there, the results tailed off and his final WRC win came in Britain at the end of 2005.
His dislike of Subaru’s later evolutions of the WRC Impreza frustrated him and when Subaru withdrew at the end of 2008, Solberg faced an uncertain future. With characteristic determination he created his own team from scratch and in an ageing Citroen Xsara WRC, he finished fifth in the 2009 drivers’ championship.
He did even better in 2010 by finishing third and returned to a factory drive when he signed for Ford in 2012. The pace was still there but the consistency was lacking and Solberg was unable to take the rally win he so desperately wanted.