Double FIA World Rallycross Championship title holder Petter Solberg is expecting a tough season ahead as he begins his title defence in Portugal this week.
Solberg has dominated World Rallycross for the last two seasons and is all too aware of the target painted on his back as the rest of the grid shapes up to mount an offensive.
“I have been ready for this moment for a very long time,” said Solberg, “We’ve been working hard over the winter and the whole team is really pleased with what we’ve got from the car.”
The grid has some new and old faces and Solberg sees this as a positive as the sport increases its reach.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the new drivers coming to the championship and this is good for [World] RX, it’s good for the sport and for the profile.
“There are more drivers out for us to fight with than in the last two years and those drivers are in some really, really good cars. You’ve got the guys new to the championship, just look at the names: [Sébastien] Loeb, [Ken] Block, [Niklas] Grönholm. And then it’s drivers like Timmy Hansen, Reinis Nitišs, Mattias Ekström – these guys have all shown how good they are. And don’t forget Andreas Bakkerud, Davy Jeanney and Tanner Foust.
“We know all of the drivers competing are serious, they can win races and challenge for the championship. They have been getting more experience and more wise about how to win races and challenge across the season.
Solberg’s PSRX team is privately funded and has to fight against manufacturer teams such as Team Peugeot Hansen ,Volkswagen RX and the new Ford Performance backed Hoonigan Racing team.
The team will keep last seasons’ Citroen chassis but has worked hard to overhaul the engine, transmission, and dampers. Solberg is confident that his team can give him the ability to defend his title.
“We’re at a key time with PSRX right now. As everybody knows, we’re a privately funded team, we’re not a manufacturer, but every year we are holding our own against these factory cars. We’re already looking beyond this season and there are some exciting developments coming for PSRX in 2017 and into the future.
“But for now, the focus is keeping the number one on our doors for another year. We had a fantastic start to 2015, we need the same again; getting points in the bag allows you to work on the strategy in the second half of the season. It brings a lot more pressure if you are chasing wins all the way to the last round. We don’t want to be doing that.
“When you look at the Peugeot, Block’s Ford and the Audi, these are serious cars – factory cars with more budget behind them. We have to work like hell to keep up with these guys.”