Petter's blog

Only the best team is good enough

You can see them in the background on TV, out of focus on still images/photographs captured in the service area or on the grid; Find Their feet sticking out underneath the car, their heads down in the engine compartment down, under the bonnet, behind computers or, over the pots and pans in the kitchen. Without my team there I would never have been a double FIA World RX champion. Here is my tribute to my best friends, helpers and family: the PSRX team!

I have been in countless discussions about the importance of a good team and whether rallycross – (and motorsports in general –) should be referred to as a team sport. My contention is clear, I firmly believe the answer to this is YES! For me, to even think about competing at all in the FIA World Rallycross Championship, I must have a team around me. How good the team is, determines how well I will achieve.

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My team is hand-picked. I’ve put together a group of people who want exactly the same as me. They want to win as much as I do, and they will do whatever it takes, no matter how “impossible” it may seem at times.

There are people with wives, husbands, children, family and friends at home, who are also an important part of our team. And that we try our best to take care of. Life in World RX is tough, and we are often out travelling for a long time. It’s a comfort for all of us knowing that those who are at home, support us fully in our determination and quest to fulfill goals and dreams.

The 2016 pre-season and the season-opener in Portugal is the best example of how PSRX thinks and performs as a team. Having rebuilt large parts of last year’s “Golden Car”, we were put under huge pressure to get it 100 percent competitive and ready for the first race.

We did the first proper test just five weeks before the season began. In Lohéac, France, we found partially good conditions to get a good first impression of the changes we had made with the car during winter. Then we left behind all equipment in France and returned home to work on parts and details during Easter week. Then we met again on our second test in Estering, Germany, and from there we went for a final session in Lousada, Portugal.

Let’s just briefly recapture our struggles that led to race success: Almost all the other World RX teams also came to Lousada, did some test runs and disappeared again. PSRX were among one of the first of the teams to arrive and also were one of the last to leave as well.

Late in on the evening before scrutieneering, the team and I felt that we had a competitive car. Only then did we decided to enter the World Championship circuit in Montalégre a couple of hours away.

We spend a lot of human resources in our preparations. But my team’s philosophy is that it would have been pointless for us to emerge start in MontalĂ©gre without being fully prepared. In the final three weeks before the race, a base of 10 technicians, mechanics, helpers, team members and I worked around the clock under a small roof as the only protection against rain, snow and hail in Lousada. We worked to make the car more than right. We worked to make it perfect.

An estimated 70 percent of the car has been changed from the previous season. The most important changes are related to geometry and weight distribution. Our competitors in several factory teams are also working around the clock with development. We can easily see that with Peugeot, Hoonigan, EKS and Volkswagen Sweden who have more resources than we do.

But in my opinion we have more passion. And you can’t beat passion!

After the victory in Portugal I have been thinking a lot about our journey so far. We have faced many challenges, but all of my team members stand together through thick and thin. Unity is the most important attribute a team can possess. We did not count on victory in the first race of the season. We do not believe the season will be easy – but what we now know from the race in Portugal, should reflect the 2016 season for us:
1) When we are struggling and we have been beaten (like on Saturday), we must still keep faith and believe in the plan and our strategy. In order to achieve success in a World RX race and to win the final, the most important job is to get stay safe through the four qualifiers and then the semi-final.
2) It’s better to be safe than sorry. What you don’t get to do today, you can only regret tomorrow!

A huge thank you to my team for the enormous work you performed in the pre-season and during the race. I received the first prize on behalf of all of you!

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Early start in the Solberg family

One of my most important experiences within motorsport was to sit beside Colin McRae and Tommi MÀkinen in a rally car when I was still young and inexperienced.

To see and feel the level of the world’s best athletes of my sport was crucial to how I further staked out my own course towards the top. I fussed a lot to make it happen, and I have never regretted it for one second – although I hate to ride along with others in a car.

For more than a year, my now 13 year old son has nagged me to have the chance to co-drive for me in my rally car. In the local winter rally Finnskogsvalsen in Sweden, I was able to fulfil Oliver’s desire. Two days of father and son time in our historic Ford Escort MkII was a wonderful experience for both of us!

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I was only six years old when I drove a car for the first time on my own. It was not legal of course, but at the end of the 1970s and in the middle of nowhere back home in Spydeberg, they were different times.

Oliver started with karting at an early age and has been driving cars for as long as he can remember. In 2014 he won three titles and nine individual victories in his crosskart. His dream is to become a rally and rallycross driver – and to beat me! One of the secrets to manage that is to see, feel and experience how I’m driving.

Being a co-driver in rally is one of the toughest jobs I can imagine. You need a full overview, manage timing, find rhythm and you must be confident and determined as well as being careful, precise and very concentrated. The co-driver tells me about how the road looks ahead, determines speed, track selection and which focus I should have on every metre of a stage; the co-driver is the driver’s extended vision.

Only the most skilled co-driver is able to lead the best driver into victories at the top level. I have worked with some of the best ones in the world; Phil Mills, Cato Menkerud and Chris Patterson are among them.Oliver had never before read notes in the car. Just four months ago he was old enough to get permission to sit in the rally in accordance with Swedish rules.

I was very excited about how he would solve the role. Result wise it was unimportant, but we were supposed to enjoy ourselves and enjoy the ride together, and then it’s nice to be satisfied with ourselves as well.

A short instruction of mom Pernilla before the start was everything Oliver wanted to prepare. From the crosskart driving he has learned how to focus and concentrate; that skill was important here.
We flew off the start-line on the first stage, and Oliver went aggressively to work with the notes.Shortly after he asked abruptly: “How am I doing Dad? Is it ok?”

Not exactly by the book in full drift on the white winter roads and with the next turn just a few meters away.

“Yes son – it’s awesome
 Just read the notes!” I replied.

We finished the stage with a ok time. Oliver was very pleased and proud – and I was equally proud. We had a very nice time together in the car, and I’m quite sure it was a great learning weekend for Oliver as well. The co-operation was getting better for each stage and towards the end of the 130 km long rally on snow and ice, we gained a lot of time against the two leaders. We were quickest in our class at the last stage, and we were only 8 seconds from second place overall.

Our aim for the top three in class and top ten overall in Finnskogsvalsen was reached!

Spending time with your children is the best there is. In an otherwise busy life for both parties it is a memorable experience that provides an extra dimension in the relationship between parents and children. Last summer Oliver and I took a road trip together in Sweden with our motorhome and we both enjoyed the country road and each other’s company to the fullest. We are often out riding ATV, snow mobiles and ice driving, and we spend time fishing and several other out-door activities together.

While I will try to defend my World title in rallycross this year, Oliver will also attempt to defend three titles in crosskarts; the Northern European, Swedish and Norwegian championships.

We will have to enjoy the separate competitions while it lasts. In about 5-6 years we may just as well compete for the same trophies…


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The trophies say it all

When the dream has become reality. When the goal has been reached. When the trophy is finally in the right hands – your hands. There and then, on the stage in front of an entire motorsports world in Doha, it seriously hit me as to what I have managed – I am a World Champion!
Again!

I followed a new dream, I pushed difficulties aside, I never gave up and I got paid in something far more valuable than money.

Nothing can match the self-respect that is left after reaching the ultimate goal. Even if dreams are big or small; to set goals and to struggle to achieve them are among the most important challenges that exist in life.In my new sport there were many drivers who dreamed of becoming the first ever world champion. But in the end my team was working the hardest,we played the smartest and did most things right on the way towards the goal.

We made a plan and had small targets along the way during the season. We took calculated risks, we tried out new opportunities, we thought differently; We dreamed together and set common goals, and we reached our goals together.

In 2003 I didn’t get a trophy to take with me back home after the World Rally Championship prize giving. Just a couple of weeks ago at the combined World Championship and my 40th birthday party at home in my workshop, I received a copy of the 2003 trophy by my wife Pernilla and son Oliver. Through eleven years I had been a little sorry that I never got a trophy – the surprise by Oliver and Pernilla was absolutely fantastic!

To me the trophies say it all. I seldom look back at achievements now when I’m still in the game, I’m only looking forward. But one day even I will retire. Then I want to look back at what I’ve actually done. The most prestigious one in my 2014 collection is the Lifetime Achievement Award that I received at the Autosport Awards in London a couple of weeks ago.

To celebrate a world title is something very special. Eleven years passed before I got fulfilled the dream again. After the title race was settled in Italy in September, I decided to celebrate it in the best possible way with all my friends around me. We ended up at my workshop in Torsby with 220 invited friends, loved ones and acquaintances. Than was a very emotional evening.

It feels really different to wake in the morning now. As usual it happens early – around 7 o’clock. I normally go to the bathroom, look into the mirror and tell myself that I can reach any goal I set for myself if I work hard enough for it. Just like my dear mother taught me to do many years ago. The smile and self-image I get in return is worth every minute of struggle. The journey of life must also contain downs if one should be able to enjoy the highs to the fullest.

One more year is now behind us. It has been the most successful in my career. The World title, five race victories, nine podium finishes (from twelve races), 24 heat victories (from 72 in total) in the World RX – plus the Monster Super Charge award (first car into the first corner in the RX finals) and a further four triumphs in unofficial races. In addition my son Oliver had an equally good crosskart season with three titles (Northern European, Swedish and Norwegian champion) and nine single victories which means just as much to me.

My main plan for 2015 is to defend my World RX title. It is guaranteed be difficult to win again in 2015, but we have a good and developed plan to do it, and this year’s World Championship gold made me even hungrier for success.

Race victories and titles are doing something to me. I am 110 percent sure that this year’s season in rallycross has made me a better motorsport performer. Therefore I have also toyed with the idea of driving a couple of WRC rounds if a good enough offer arises. I would also like to measure forces against GRC drivers in the X Games – and I want to win Race of Champions individually. The experience in Barbados before Christmas was really great. What a wonderful event the Race of Champions is! Thanks to everyone in the organization and my colleagues who contributed to a life experience, and thanks to Tom Kristensen for a successful and very inspiring collaboration that led us to the top of the Nations Cup!

But on top of my list of wishes for 2015 is to retain my Championship crown in rallycross. Period!

In approximately 11 months we’ll know


I wish you all the best in 2015.

#FollowYourDreams
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Like music in my ears

Back to rallying. I think you all know that rallying is my first love in motorsport. It’s what I did for so many years and the chance to go back there and compete again is really good for me.
That’s why I’m so excited about the Condroz Rally. I have absolutely loved the intense competition and the atmosphere around the FIA World Rallycross Championship – it’s hard not to enjoy being a world champion again! But the chance to sit on the start line and have a co-driver count me down from five to go is really special.

It’s even more special that the person sitting alongside me is the same Welshman who won the 2003 World Rally Championship with me, Phil Mills. Phil and I started 152 rounds of the World Rally Championship together and won 13 of them. The last time he was calling the notes to me in the world championship was on the Rally of Portugal in 2010.

Phil and I have been through a lot in our time competing in a car. Both joy and drama. For me it’s not only the victories or the dramatic crash in Germany 2004 that comes to mind. All the good talks and joy we had driving around for hours and hours in between stages in different countries around the world is very special to me still. The chance to get back together again in a Citroen C4 WRC is really nice for both of us. We wanted to do something last year, 10 years after we won the title, but there was never time to sort it out. We can say this is a delayed celebration for the two of us.

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But what about Belgium and Condroz? I must admit, I don’t know so much about the rally, except that it’s a very, very popular event with fans and competitors. But, having competed in World RX of Belgium earlier this year, I do know about the country and just how much those guys love their motorsport. The atmosphere at the race was incredible and I’m sure it will be the same when we get to the start of the rally.

It will definitely take me a little bit of time to get used to rallying again after driving alone and around in circles for the season. But once Phil and I find our feet again, I’d like to think we’ll be pretty close to the pace. With the focus of PSRX on winning the FIA World Rallycross Championship, there really hasn’t been time to drive rally cars much recently – I have done some shows and things like that in the last couple of years, but not so much. I can’t wait to get back into a rally car.

The main thing is to enjoy myself.

After the rally, the whole team will be focused on World RX of Argentina later in November and next season. We are working flat out to sort everything for 2015, but at the moment there is nothing confirmed.

And you never know, once Phil’s back in the car, he might not want to get out again


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Ping pong Petter set to smash

What on earth does table tennis have in common with rallycross? Well, in the past few weeks I have played far more ping pong than I have driven cars. The purpose is to train my reactions and concentration to be an even better rallycross driver. And it’s pure fun too!
In the world of sport it is stated that one must train on what you want to succeed in. 5-6 minute per ping pong set with full concentration and reaction speed as well as taking lightning fast decisions is an activity I am convinced that will make a positive contribution for my World Championship campaign. Just last week I played with a team colleague for a total of 6-7 hours.
Of course it’s all about a hobby more than trying to win the World Table Tennis Championship title too. In my early rally career I was subject to a strict training regime in Subaru. We practiced for hours a day and used everything from weights to running, cycling, boxing, tennis and basic strength training in the gym everyday.
I’ll admit that my training fervour has diminished somewhat over the years, but still I train consistently. After two seasons in rallycross my team and I have concluded that reaction and concentration are key elements. To respond rapidly to the green start lights is essential, and strong focus all the way through a whole race weekend is absolutely necessary.
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We concluded earlier in the season that such training is important. That’s why I now play 4-5 times a week of table tennis with a team mate. We play game, set and match (10 set x 3) and keep on going between 1 and 2 hours per session. It will be interesting over time to see whether I notice any response. I believe in the theory. Also, it is really fun to play ping pong and to win!
In addition to table tennis, I am out several times a week on the ATV with my son Oliver and occasionally with Pernilla. A few weeks ago the whole family were out on a fantastic ATV safari back home where we challenged ourselves in forests, thickets, marshes and cliffs. THAT is what I call quality time with my beloved ones!
‘Game, set and match’ is not on my lips when it comes to the FIA World RX Championship. It’s way too early. Admittedly, I am leading the championship with 28 points, but before this weekend’s World Championship round of Germany only two-thirds of the season is done. Four races remain, leaving 120 points still to be awarded. I notice in my body as well as in my mind and my surroundings that it’s starting to get really interesting.
Tactically we have been smart for a long time. To continue to collect important World Championship points, there is no reason to change our strategy. We go for the top finishers in each heat, semi-finals and finals, but without being desperate for victory in every single race. I feel very comfortable with the plan that my team and I have made trying to win the first ever World Championship title in rallycross.
We are well underway, but it is far too early to begin to think about anything but the next race. When we only have Argentina left, I’ll sit down and look carefully at what will be needed. Now I only think about the RX of Germany. Then the RX of Italy next weekend. Furthermore, Turkey two weekends later.
Three times we have won World RX races this year. The confidence is high in the whole PSRX Team. But it’s very important to remain realistic. One weak performance turns everything upside down again. Or an engine failure, a crash, mechanical trouble, punctures at inopportune times. A lot can happen, and I must be prepared for anything.
It’s all about being smart and waiting for the right opportunities to go Flat Out. Race victories mean very little if the pursuit of them leads to DNF’s. If I find it too hard to win some races, I’d rather run risk free into a 2nd, 3rd or 4th place. Trying just a little too much could make you end up in a ditch.
Although I think differently when it comes to tactics now, there’s one thing that will never change about me: I will grab every shot at a victory with both hands if they present themselves.
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