Former world champion Petter Solberg will return to the WRC in Spain next month for a one-off outing in Volkswagen’s new Polo GTI R5.
The flamboyant 43-year-old Norwegian joins reigning champion Sebastien Ogier and nine-time title winner Sébastien Loeb in a stellar line-up for the mixed surface Rally RACC Catalunya - Rally de España (25 - 28 October).
Solberg’s appearance means the last three world champions will compete in Spain. The last time three title winners drove at the same event was in Finland in 2010 when Loeb, Solberg and four-time champion Juha Kankkunen were in action.
Six years after his last full outing in 2012, Solberg will make his comeback at the same rally in which he called time on his WRC career. Veronica Engan will co-drive.
He joins Eric Camilli in Volkswagen’s two-car WRC 2 entry, ahead of the new challenger being made available to customer teams. The Spanish event, the WRC’s penultimate round, will be the Polo R5’s only outing with the manufacturer’s works team.
“The opportunity to make a WRC comeback with Volkswagen is a unique one, and I was very happy to accept the offer,” said Solberg, who currently drives a Polo in the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
“When I drove the car in January in Sweden, I didn’t want to stop. Everything about the Polo GTI R5 worked from the very beginning.
“I’m really looking forward to Rally Spain. I always used to like the combination of gravel and asphalt. It will obviously be a special feeling to return to the place where I brought the curtain down on my rally career back in 2012.
“It will be a fantastic reunion with the WRC family, but one with a professional background. I obviously want to get the R5 Polo off to a good start with a good result,” he said.
Solberg scored 13 wins in a 188-rally WRC career in which he drove for Ford, Subaru and Citroën. He finished championship runner-up on three occasions, to add to his 2003 crown in a Subaru Impreza when he pipped Loeb by a point.
Volkswagen motorsport director Sven Smeets labelled Solberg a ‘true rally hero’.
“To give everything, always 110 per cent, is Petter’s trademark. He has tested the Polo GTI R5 and has always been one of our preferred candidates for the debut of our new customer sport car,” he said.