Solberg vs Ekström
In 2014 we won the first ever FIA World Rallycross Championship by 46 points. In 2015 the gap to our nearest rival was reduced to 26. This year, the title race is set to be much closer; thanks to the duel Solberg vs Ekström.
It was great to become World Champion again in 2014 after eleven years without the taste of gold. I was also very excited about winning a third career World title last year. Yet I sit here with a feeling that the 2016 title is the one to really reach out for. If Ekström, Solberg, Kristoffersson, Loeb or someone else manages to pull it off, remains to be seen.
One thing is certain: It will be a closer and more difficult fight than ever before!
(Continues below the picture)
Mattias Ekström leads the FIA World RX Championship before the party goes on to Sweden. The Swede has a five point advantage on me after five (out of 12) rounds. Everyone else is 40 points or more behind. There is a reason for that …
Ekström and I are rivals, but we also have a mutual respect for each other. The same applies to our teams. We have great respect for how they work and vice versa. Why? Because we do a lot of very similar things to reach success. We always turn up maximum prepared for a season and a race, we have a clear strategy and follow it, we respect each other and everyone else, both on and off the track. We analyze situations before and after the races, develop our cars and equipment constantly and we refuse to be satisfied with what we have.
Never being satisfied is both a pleasure and a curse. This leads to an excessive amount of work for the team, but it also gains results – and results are what both Mattias, I and our teams live by and for.
To be completely honest; I love this duel! The 2016 FIA World RX Championship has a high standing because there are multiple drivers as genuinely fighting for the title. In the fight against Ekström and co. there is no room for error, and every day one have to look for improvements of both car and driver characteristics.
Here’s a particularly interesting observation from Lydden Hill two races ago: Five times the track records (4 and 6 rounds) were crushed on the legendary track. The last two years the qualifying times (4 laps) has been smashed with 6.7 seconds, and the finals 9 seconds.
No, everything wasn’t better before …
2014 Bakkerud 4.25,4
2015 Solberg 4.25,0
2016 Ekström 4.16,4
2014 Solberg 2.58,9
2015 Ekström 2.56,1
2016 Solberg 2.52,2
My prediction is that the battle between Ekström and me will continue at the highest level and last until the end – and others can still come back. The season is only less than half way of its way in.
Argentina 27-28 November will be the decisive race! Although Mattias says he needs to do the DTM in October, when the race at Hockenheim collides with rallycross on Estering in Germany. I tried to squeeze him a bit at Lydden Hill last week, but couldn’t make him answer clearly about it.
I think I will be right when I already state that we are going to see Mattias Ekström in his white Audi S1 also at Estering 15-16 October…
Petter Solberg World RX Team is not quite like any other team. I’m incredibly proud of what we achieve together with our sponsors and WITHOUT a single part or support from the car brand that we run. In 29 FIA World RX Championship races we have nine wins and a total of 21 positions on the podium.
Now it’s time to go home. And hard!
See you at ‘The Magic Weekend’ in Höljes, Sweden!