SOLBERG

Fan favourite de­lighted at se­cur­ing high pro­file deal LANDS FAC­TORY VW FOR WORLD RALLYCROSS

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By David Evans Full story, P2-3

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.”

Solberg will swap to Polo for 2017

Pet­ter Solberg will con­tinue to be team owner with Pernilla (left) act­ing as the team man­ager

Solberg had a tough time in 2016

Smeets: RX is growth area Kristof­fers­son will join Solberg in works Polo RXS

Solberg racked up two World RX cham­pi­onships in his pri­vately run Citroen DS 3

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