The charismatic Norwegian, world champion in 2003, has announced in a statement that he will “explore and direct focus in a different direction in his successful and decorated career”.
His decision brings to an end a 15-year stint in the WRC. In 188 starts at world level, Solberg won 13 rallies, finished second 15 times and came home third on 24 occasions. He scored 852 points and set 456 fastest stage times.
“I am so grateful and happy for what I have experienced during my 15 years in the WRC,” said Solberg. “For now it’s really quite sad, you know, I would have loved to have driven for a few more years, but I do realise there will not be a WRC programme for me next year. I have said I am willing to drive for free, but at this point, I will not pay to drive. This is not to say that you will never again see me in a WRC car, but for now, I think it’s best.”
Solberg, who had been vying for the third Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team seat for next year, continued: “I know I am good enough to fight in the top for many years still, but I fully understand the difficult financial situation for the 2013 season for M-Sport, so I wish the team all the best in the future.”
The 38-year-old Solberg made his WRC debut in Sweden in 1998 before being signed by Ford after being talent-spotted by the Blue Oval. However, he left in controversial circumstances midway through 2000 to join Subaru where he won his first and only world crown three years later. Following Subaru’s withdrawal from the WRC at the end of 2008, Solberg established his own team with some success before returning to Ford in 2012. Co-driven by Chris Patterson, he finished fifth in the standings on 124 points.
Solberg concluded by thanking his legion of fans around the world, adding: “The sport has given me so much, but I want to give a special thank you to all of my fans that have supported me through thick and thin, and given me such a great feeling about what I do, and for being a large reason of why I do it. I do hope you all understand, and I hope you’ll continue to follow me on to my next venture. I promise to bring you something worthy of this. My team and I are hard at work as you read this, and we can’t wait to let you know what are plans are.”