Fan favourite delighted at securing high profile deal LANDS FACTORY VW FOR WORLD RALLYCROSS
Petter Solberg will drive a VW Polo RX in this season’s World Rallycross Championship – labeling the shock agreement a ‘dream deal.’
Solberg’s own PSRX team will run a programme that looks set to return the Norwegian to the forefront of the series.
“Honestly, this is what I have dreamed of,” said Solberg, who took the World RX title in 2014 and 2015.
“I have given up on a lot of opportunities in world motorsport over the past few years to arrive in this place – this is what I have worked for and what I have been waiting for.”
Triple FIA World champion Petter Solberg looks set to rocket back to the front of the World RX Championship field after signing to drive a factory-built Volkswagen Polo RX this season.
The Norwegian star’s PSRX team will run Volkswagen Sweden and Monster-branded cars in next year’s series. Volkswagen Motorsport will build and run the Polo RXS, representing the German manufacturer’s strongest presence yet in World RX.
Solberg will be joined in the PSRX squad by current Polo driver Johan Kristoffersson.
“Honestly, this is what I have dreamed of,” said Solberg, who took the World RX title in 2014 and 2015. “We have worked so hard on putting this deal together, it’s taken a while to get there, but I truly believe that we now have such a strong force for this year’s championship. I have given up on a lot of opportunities in world motorsport over the past few years to arrive in this place – this is what I have worked for and what I have been waiting for.”
As he has in the last three years, Solberg will remain as team owner and driver, with his wife Pernilla running the team operations on a day-to-day basis.
Having run his own private team with no manufacturer support for the last two years, Solberg is delighted with the PSRX association with Volkswagen Motorsport.
“We have seen what Volkswagen is capable of in motorsport,” said Solberg. “Just look at the domination of Dakar and the World Rally Championship. To be working with them in World Rallycross is just incredible.”
The deal also means a renewed relationship between Solberg and Volkswagen technical director Francois-xavier Demaison, who worked with Solberg at the Subaru World Rally Team and subsequently in the 2003 World Rally champion’s own WRC team.
“FX and I finished third in the World Rally Championship together,” said Solberg. “He is the guy I respect most in this sport and he’s the guy I really wanted to work with this season. He and I know each other so well. FX knows what I want from the car and he knows how to make a fast car for me. Honestly, I can’t wait to be working with this guy again – this is just fantastic.”
Having already bagged two RX drivers’ titles, Solberg said his focus would be on the manufacturers’ award in 2017.
“We have a really strong team with Johan [Kristoffersson] coming in the other car,” said
Solberg. “He’s the guy I wanted for a team-mate – he’s a really strong driver with incredible potential. Together, we can work well and we can look to bring home both the World RX titles for PSRX, Volkswagen and Volkswagen Sweden. It would be an incredible honour for me to try to take the manufacturer crown as team owner – that really would be the dream!”
Volkswagen’s motorsport director Sven Smeets told MN he is looking forward to working with Solberg in 2017.
“We have been watching rallycross very closely for a while now,” said Smeets. “Obviously we are already working with the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team in Global Rallycross – where we had great success with the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship titles last year – but we were keen to look more at the FIA World Rallycross Championship for 2017. Working in alliance with Petter’s [PSRX] team and Volkswagen Sweden, we could make this happen.
“Petter will run the team and we will provide technical support, we will have technicians at the races and we will engineer the car – but the financing and sponsorship of the operation is all down to Petter and Volkswagen Sweden. We’re looking forward to it. It’s clear, rallycross is a big growth area in world motorsport and it ties in with our future objectives.”
When Volkswagen withdrew from the World Rally Championship late last year, VW board member Frank Welsch talked about engaging with electric technology in the firm’s motorsport programmes moving forward. Welsch said: “With the upcoming expansion in electrification of our vehicles, we must focus our efforts on important future technologies.”
Earlier in the season, Welsch had spoken directly about the use of electric cars in rallycross, telling Autocar: “I can certainly imagine a championship done with allelectric cars. The races are around six minutes long, which allows for short, intense bursts of competition and then charging.
“Today, these cars are super-powerful, have torque from hell and use all-wheel drive. Electric drivetrains could deliver that. If the championship moved that way it would be perfect for us. We are already in discussions with organisers to that effect.”
World RX managing director Paul Bellamy confirmed to MN that he was already considering ways to incorporate electric cars in the future of his series, but wasn’t able to put a timeframe on it yet.
Solberg and Volkswagen are expected to start testing the all-new Polo next week.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Solberg, “but I don’t think I have ever felt so excited about the start of a new season coming around. We have such an opportunity now – this is really the launchpad for my PSRX team to really take off in World Rallycross. For so many years, we have struggled like hell to face everybody else, but now we’re really ready to take on the world.”