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!
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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 …
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.
Turning two into three and three into four, that’s the job I will start this weekend. However I’m only interested in the number one!
Let me reveal one of my – until now – secret weapon… Jean-Claude Vaucard is a true legend of motorsport. He’s engineered some of the world’s fastest rally and race cars, including the Xsara WRC Sebastien Loeb made his name in and Volkswagen’s Race Touareg, which set new standards in off-road racing at the Dakar. And now Jean-Claude is working with us.
It’s fantastic to have somebody like Jean-Claude working on the car; he attended some of our pre-season testing and came up with some solutions I hadn’t thought of. He really is a legend and he’s our secret weapon this season!
It’s been too long out of the car for me. I don’t like to have such a big break away from competition, but I don’t talk about that any more. Like the races and the championships we have won, they are history, something to smile about when I retire – a lot of years from now.
I am only interested to look forward. This week and this season. And what a fight, what an incredible year we are going to have. There are more drivers than ever in a position to win races this year, more drivers than ever who want to take the championship in Argentina. We have to be better than them all.
There’s a lot of talk about Sebastien Loeb and that’s understandable. He’s amazing. If you want to talk numbers, go and talk numbers with Loeb – his are the best statistics. I have known him for a long time and I know what a fierce competitor he is. Out of the car he’s nice, but in the car, trust me, he’s Mr Tough Guy.
Loeb will be at the front fighting. We know what he did in rallying and we’ve seen his racing ability in the World Touring Car Championship – he was also impressive in the two rallycross races he did before. As well as that, he has a very good car and a very good team behind him. But, like I said, Seb is one of eight, nine or maybe even 10 drivers who could win races this year.
As I stand here in Portugal before our final shakedown test, it’s hard not to feel a little bit like the underdog. Some of the teams here are testing three cars and they’ve got their big hospitality and big budgets. PSRX is a smaller team than most, but we’ve shown how effective, efficient and competitive we are.
The one question any athlete shouldn’t ask themselves is, ‘what if things were different?’
I’m in need of just five points to win the 2015 FIA World RX Championship title – Would I ask myself ‘What if I had done just a little better in one of the twelve races so far?’
No way! I did my very best in each and every one of them. Period!
I never ask myself ‘what if’.
Actually, I have enjoyed every day after the penultimate race in Italy in mid-October. I have been proud of being in a position where the advantage is pretty solid and the championship title will be decided in the final round.
We could have decided the title fight in Italy by winning the event.
But we didn’t.
End of story!
Last time out I managed to clinch the championship with two World RX races to go. For my first ever World title, in the 2003 WRC, I was one point behind (Loeb and Sainz) before the final round. With me winning in Wales and Loeb taking second place in that amazing event, I managed to win the title by one single point!
I predict an even closer FIA World RX Championship in 2016 – That’s exactly why I enjoy these days; ‘cause I probably will not experience the exact same thing ever again…
So this is probably as good as it gets!
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Compared to the 2003 WRC Championship, I’m in a totally different position before the 2016 (World RX) finale; I’m 26 points ahead of my closest rival (Timmy Hansen). Since there’s a maximum of 30 points to be given out during a World RX weekend, I would need to score 5 points to secure the title. That means I need to qualify for the semi-finals in Argentina!
In 24 FIA World RX races ever I have never missed out from a FIA World RX semi-finale!
No ‘what if’!
I am very well prepared ahead the final race of the season. My self-esteem is high after nine podium finishes from twelve races so far – my team is prepared – we will work in the exact same way as we always do at races; not thinking about results – only performance.
We refuse to wake up on the Monday after a race thinking that we should have done something different during the weekend.
That’s why there’s no ‘what ifs’ on our minds; we act when we need to act. Or it’s too late!
In my opinion athletes worry too much about things that cannot be changed. Thinking too much before an event is the whole reason for people being nervous!
Take a few seconds to think about that.
Everyone has been there before; thinking ‘what if I wasn’t that nervous before the start?’
I tell you this: If all preparations has been the best possible, then there’s nothing more to do and no reason at all to be nervous.
Sports is all about hard work, targets, winning and losing.
Sometimes you win, that should make you excited. And sometimes you lose, which should be indeed motivating.
Because losing is just a necessary obstacle on the road to victory!
Everybody, all around the world, knows about James Bond. He’s the good guy who gets the job done. Period.
But every now and then, Bond has to be a little bit bad. He has to get his hands dirty to get the job done. And that’s what makes him great, he can do the job the good way, the easy way, the hard way and the really, really tough way.
In the end, though, you just know that Bond’s going to come out of the chaos smiling. I’ve been watching a lot of Bond recently.
The PSRX engineers are even cleverer than Q, so the supercar’s ready for the best race since Bond tore through the Parisian streets in half a Renault 11. And, no matter how scary my competitors think they are, they’ve got nothing on May Day in a View to a Kill.
Yes, you’re right, Day won that particular battle, but Bond won the war.
Since the disappointment of our home race, M and I have been working on a plan to stop the others taking over the [FIA] World [Rallycross Championship].
As far as I’m concerned, The World is Not Enough anymore. I’m going to get my GoldenEye in and beat The Living Daylights out of the opposition.
I for sure will Never Say Never Again.
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Seriously, I’m taking the gloves off. I understand now that the rules of this game are a little bit different. A nudge here, a tap there is part of the game, so I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about my game plan and it’s time to toughen up a little bit.
And now is the time to do it! I’m not going to look back in November and regret not doing anything. After being qualified for 18 straight FIA World RX finals, I missed out for the first time in Canada. When the same thing happened on home turf in Norway, we had to take things seriously. No doubt my competitors has changed; they are tougher driving vise than before. Now I’ll have to start defending myself!
I want my third FIA World Championship, I’m desperate for it and I now understand I’m going to have to fight for it. I’m ready for that fight; it’s time to show some teeth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking Jaws from The Spy Who Loves Me or Moonraker, I’m talking about being smart! And, don’t forget, Bond always brings the best baddies around. May Day came around to his way of thinking and the lovely Sévérine certainly did.
So, there we are. We will take on the rest of the 2015 season with a new mindset. Five races is left of the season; 150 points to battle for. Every single one of them can be crucial. It’s about time to show what I’m made of – and to see what the others can take. It’s Live and Let Die!
We’ve been shaken and stirred into action here.
A real champion needs to be prepared for tougher times and capable of getting back on the right trail. Sports as in life in general is not easy to balance. Usually it’s just a matter of small adjustments.
Do not play with success! Once you begin to master something, win something, one will soon want to have more. And then even more, so much more. The trick is to take care of the success you have – to avoid taking on even more and finally too much.
Our start to the season has been rather unique. Two wins and two second places is pretty much more than one would expect in such an unpredictable sport that Rallycross is. We know the car is good enough and so is by far the team, but there are still so many unknown elements that have to come together to finish in the top two in the first four consecutive races.
Before the season, in early March, the whole team met to discuss the challenge ahead and the first four races of the coming season were devoted extra attention. Four races in four weeks requires a carefully thought out plan. There was certainly no room for mistakes either before, during or after the races, so naturally, our plan demanded the greatest degree of attention and accuracy:
* Avoid excessive damage to the RX car.
* All transfers, including the set-up and packing down, must be extremely effective.
* We must have clear back-up plans for all scenarios.
As it was said in the meeting: The first four races will form the basis for the entire rest of the season. It was clear to everyone in the team that we were facing four very demanding and arduous weeks after three months of hard work. Fortunately, I have a team that immediately understood what they had to do, and everyone was willing to do what was required – and then some!
After the four gruelling races in Portugal, Germany, Belgium and Great Britain, we were rewarded with 112 World RX points in total, 29 points more than our closest challenger.
It’s almost too good to be true.
All due to my unique team and sponsors. We have done it without any manufacturer support like our main competitors have!
Just before my victory at Lydden Hill (Great Britain), I faced a difficult choice. My team was given a very valuable invitation to the X Games in Austin, Texas and we had to quickly decide whether to attend.
Who does not dream of a gold medal in the X Games? I for sure wouldn’t mind…
But even if the will and desire to win was strong as it could be, our common sense won the struggle. The 2015 FIA World RX Championship has our full attention, it is something we have worked on for the last 200 days or so. Our resources are limited to 13 World Cup races,meaning it would have been a big risk to our World RX plan to do a race in the United States if something had happened to the car.
Instead, we kept to our plan with two very important test days in Höljes, Sweden. Those tests lay the foundation for the car’s capacity and performance for the rest of the World RX season.
Let there be no secret that I’m extremely satisfied with what came out of the last four weeks.
Now it’s time to focus on races in Germany and Sweden before all the equipment is to be sent to Canada. Three hectic weeks lay ahead of us before we can treat ourselves to a small summer vacation.
Preparations in recent weeks have been close to optimal. We are ready and are enormously looking forward to embarking on new adventures in the FIA World RX Championship.
One must work hard to achieve success. The whole team has worked long hours and late evenings. It remains to be seen if our priorities that led us to Höljes over Austin have been right.