Wednesday | 14 Oct 2020

Guest column: Petter Solberg

Did I want to drive a current World Rally Car on the Wolf Power Stage at Rally Italia Sardegna?

I didn’t need one second to answer. Yes! You all know me quite well. Did you think I would say no to this chance?

I was happy for a lot of reasons. It was the chance to drive a Citroën C3 at a rally I won the first time it was in the FIA World Rally Championship back in 2004 and it was a chance to help my friends at Pirelli.

We all know Pirelli is coming back in the WRC next season and they have been doing a lot of work on their tyres in the last few months. Andreas [Mikkelsen] is their test driver, but for one time he would be my co-driver on the Sassari - Argentiera stage.

Rally Italia Sardegna - Petter Solberg / Andreas Mikkelsen

This whole thing was really cool. Even more cool because Oliver was driving on the same rally in his Škoda Fabia. We competed together in Wales last year, both driving Volkswagen Polo R5s, on my Farewell Tour and it was really nice. In Sardinia it was a little bit the same.

Because I had not driven the car before I wanted to take some feeling from the tyres and the set-up, so I did three runs at shakedown. The tyres worked really well, with a good sensation and lots of grip.

Immediately though I could feel myself going back to my routine. I was feeling the car and wondering what changes I could make: we could work on the dampers here, maybe make that change to the differential there…

Terenzio [Testoni, Pirelli’s head of rally racing] was asking me about the tyres. I was telling him, the tyres were fine, but we should be thinking about the roll bars… He said: “Petter, it’s shakedown for the Power Stage. You are here to try the tyres and have some fun.”

Pirelli launches 2021 WRC tyres in Italy

Pirelli launches 2021 WRC tyres in ...

Pirelli unveiled its new range of FIA World Rally Championship tyres on Thursday (8 October) morning ahead of the firm’s return ...

Read More

Andreas was feeling quite good after shakedown. He told me: “We’re going for the full five points on Sunday!”

I have to say I was feeling a little bit nervous when we drove to the start of the stage. Andreas was so good on the notes, he was fantastic. So good I thought I should call him Andreas Mills afterwards – but it’s fair to say we did make the odd wrong turn on the way to the stage.

I was thinking before the start, should I make a show or try to drive quite hard. You know I like to make a show, but with this chance to drive the car I just wanted to push a little bit and see how it felt.

I loved it. It was so cool to be out there and driving hard again. Like I said, Andreas got the notes perfect and I made only one moment braking a little bit late for a downhill corner. The stage was actually really tricky, so narrow in places and lots of ruts. It was not easy – suddenly I found myself really focused and working hard.

The time wasn’t so bad for my first time in the car, but Oliver wanted to tell me his time. OK, he was a couple of seconds faster than me, but he’s the young guy now. If only I’d done those clicks before the start. And there’s definitely more time to be found out if we’d played with the mapping. Next time…

Seriously, I have to say a big thank you to Pirelli and to Andreas. That was a lot of fun.