Portugal WRX winner Solberg: “The level this year is crazy. It is very, very hard now”


Petter Solberg and his PSRX team have been extremely busy over the FIA World Rallycross Championship off-season, and this weekend saw the perfect reward as the Norwegian took victory in the opening round of the new season at Montalegre, Portugal.

“I am so happy.” said Solberg after the event. “The team has worked so hard all over the winter, we had some of the guys living in the factory and working all of the hours in the day and today I could pay them back. We won!”

It wasn’t plain sailing for the team through as they battled with torrential rain and the muddy conditions it brought with it; A tough day on the Saturday would force the team to do their homework overnight.

“Saturday wasn’t such a good start. When I slid wide in the first race and we ran into the mud, everything looked quite dark. The weather was so bad and the mud so deep, the car wasn’t working like we knew it could be. It was better with the second race, when I won, but on Saturday night I was a little bit worried. I thought maybe we couldn’t even make the final – a podium position looked like another world!

“We shut the door, sat down and talked through our strategy in a team meeting. We stayed calm and we then worked on the car and came out confident on Sunday morning. When I saw the weather was better and felt that the car was working like I wanted, then things became possible again.” added Solberg.

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Solberg heads in to the joker lap – Credit: FIA World Rallycross championship / IMG

Despite the changes to the set up and the improvements in the weather, the challenges wouldn’t end there for Solberg as he suffered technical issues with his launch system.

“The crucial thing we had agreed in the meeting was to stay calm and not do anything stupid. I drove like this through the heats on Sunday and made the semi-final. I must admit, it was a bit more difficult to stay calm when the launch system wasn’t working perfectly at the start of the semi.

“I got off the line the old fashioned way: with a lot of revs. I had to do this in the final as well, but I must say I think I feel more confident using myself as the launch system rather than the car now.

It was more of the same for the final race of the weekend and the teams’ strategy paid off for the defending World champion.

“I did the same in the final and the start was good. Once we were in the clear, things were looking really good for me. I made a good strategy with the team for the joker and to win was amazing. It is fantastic.

Despite being the double World Rallycross champion and winning the opening race of this season, Solberg acknowledges that it isn’t going to be an easy ride this season.

“The level this year is crazy. It is very, very hard now – we are fighting like hell for every single point. Before the race, I said it could be possible for 10 drivers to win this race and we have seen how competitive so many of the guys are here in Portugal. We have more work to do and more speed to find from the car if we want to continue at the front.

“But tonight we celebrate. After a month on the road working and testing all of the time, to bring this result home is very, very special for PSRX.” he added.