23 Feb 09
After six weeks in the professional wilderness, Petter Solberg made his eagerly anticipated WRC return on Rally Norway with a classic David and Goliath style battle.
A win for Petter on the Thursday evening Super Special, in front of his home crowd, had the 2003 World Champion hanging outside his Citroen Xsara on his victory lap, waving at his fans like he used to back in his glory days at Subaru.
Of course, going fastest through a Super Special isn't the most important thing about rallying, but for Petter it represented a hell of a comeback. Perhaps even eclipsing the 2003 Tour de Corse victory he took after his car was almost snapped in half by a telegraph pole at shakedown.
The fact that he'd managed to beat everybody on home ground with a car built in 2001 was only part of the reason for his delight. More importantly the result was payback for the three weeks of non-stop effort he and his family and friends had put in to build a new team from scratch.
And although he was unable to match that opening pace for the rest of the rally, Petter had proved his point. He still had what it takes to compete against the best in the world and his decision to go it alone was the right one.
Now he's back, the Solberg rumour mill is back in business too. Will he get a different car this year? Who will he drive for in 2010? Is he going to switch to Sportscar racing instead? These and many more are circulating right now. To get the definitive answers wrc.com spoke to Petter about Norway and his plans for 2009.
Did Rally Norway go as well as you thought it would?
I think it went well. With an old car and an old engine I didn't go there expecting to win; I just wanted to finish and get a good result for my supporters. I'm still really pleased that everything came together. We tried very hard and achieved a huge amount in a short time - things like the dampers literally arrived just before the start! If it wasn't Rally Norway I probably wouldn't have stressed so much to get everything ready...
Compared to last year's Subaru Impreza what was the Xsara like to drive? I don't like to do any comparisons because of the relationship I still have with Subaru, but I will say it's a very different car. My Xsara was built in 2001 and even though it's run in a 2005 or 2006 specification it's still an old car. It's good fun though, and pretty much as I expected it to be. On the last day, when everybody was pushing, we set some good times, too. Mechanically, we had a clutch problem on the last day, a misfire for pretty much the whole event and the engine used a litre of oil a day, but it doesn't matter.