Last week it was revealed that former WRC-driver - now WorldRX ace Petter Solberg had rejected a drive in the 2016 Dakar Rally for Toyota, but opens up for entering in 2017. This week his title-winning Citroën DS3 is put up for sale. Coincidence?
Of course, no testing for the Dakar is part of the reason why he won’t enter this time around. The difficult 2013 season he had in rallycross was done in a hurry, and Petter and his team seems more into the details than ever. With the current invasion of current and former WRC-drivers in the Dakar, it’s no surprise that Solberg wants to be as prepared as he could be.
The late and increased challenge from Timmy Hansen on the WorldRX title is also a huge part of the reason why Petter drops the Dakar in 2016. It’s no secret that the Dakar is a lot more prestigious than the World Rallycross Championship (or the World Touring-Car Championship for that matter), but the last time the Norwegian won a title he was unable to defend it from Citroën and Sebastien Loeb. To defend a title probably means more to Solberg, than to take a new one at this point.
In Italy last weekend Petter widened the gap down to Hansen in WorldRX, and now he only needs 5 points at the last round in Argentina to secure the championship. A spot in the semifinals will do that. 12th out of about 20 drivers, for a driver that has never missed out of the semifinals in WorldRX history. A driver that has 8 wins and 17 podiums from 24 rounds.
It’s a bit of a surprise then, that this driver and team would put their championship-winning car up for sale. That is what happened today, and you can buy it! I don’t have the money, so I’m more interested in what this means for the 2016 season.
We all know that Toyota is getting serious about their involvement in the WRC, with a scheduled entry in 2017. Solberg has been offered a drive in Toyota in Dakar, but remains tight-lipped in an interview with Hegnar.no about what other offers he’s got for next season.
Both our cars are for sale. Either we build a new Citroën, or we have other things going on. Stuff are happening. We haven’t decided which way to go yet. I can’t say more about next year right now.
We haven’t had a chief designer yet, but we’re working on it. The economy for next year isn’t quite ready yet, but we have a good dialogue with our sponsors. The plan is to do rallycross in 2016 as well.
That last sentence confirms that he wants to do rallycross next year, but everything else seems quite open. With his former teammate at Subaru, Tommi Mäkinen, leading the Toyota comeback in the WRC, could Petter join for doing testing and selected events next year? Do Toyota have such belief in Solberg and his WorldRX team that they want to make him responsible for a factory effort? Or does Solberg have another ace up his sleeve? What is certain here, is that his career has taken a step in the right direction after a couple of seasons in rallycross.
Since the article was written, Petter has also put one of his team trailers up for sale. Nothing is sold yet, but he is building a new car. From an interview with Becs Williams from WRC Rally Wales, he revealed that he was working towards a drive in that rally, but things fell through. Especially after WorldRX of Turkey. He is now working on a drive for Rally Sweden, and not in the historical class this time. Only one of the top 2 cars are acceptable for the veteran, which probably means either a VW or Citroën!
And yes, the co-driver in his comeback will be Phil Mills. I quite look forward to this.