Petter Solberg proved that his all-new Citroen DS3 Supercar has the pace to be at the top of the FIA European Rallycross Championship, smashing the lap record at Montalegre during the semi-finals.
Despite the pace, Solberg could only manage third place in the final after a jump start ruled him to take an extra joker lap, effectively adding four seconds to his overall race time.
An incredibly strong performance during the qualifying heats and semi-finals, winning by an unprecedented eight seconds, set up an exciting final at the fast and flowing Portuguese circuit.
The day almost turned sour for ‘Hollywood’ when a fuel pump problem threatened to end the weekend after the semi-final. Frantic work from the team meant Solberg was sent out to the grid with just minutes to spare before the start of the final.
Solberg took the lead at the start of the final, passing reigning champion Timur Timerzyanov, holding on to the lead even after he had taken his first joker lap. Solberg took his required second joker lap on the final lap of the race, emerging in third place, where he stayed until the chequered flag.
“We came so close to doing it: the main problem was that I was behind Timur for a little too long at the start of the final,” said Solberg. “If we had been able to get past him just a little sooner, then I think that we could have pulled out enough of a lead to be able to win even with the two joker laps. But the jump-start was completely my fault and it was a pity: I just couldn’t quite feel where the clutch was biting accurately enough and then the car started moving before I realised, which was what cost us the chance of winning.
“In the end though, I was just so relieved to be in the final at all: after we had the problem with the fuel pump feed, I really thought that we were going to have to stop, so it was incredible work from our team to put us back into contention and I am really grateful to everyone. We achieved our objective to make our car faster and more reliable, with a finish on the podium, and I think what we have seen this weekend can make us feel very positive about the future. Taking the lap record here is just a bonus, so I’m very happy.”