Petter Solberg Sumar
2003 - World Rally Champion
2002 - 2nd Drivers' World Rally Championship
2002 - First WRC Win - Rally of Great Britain
2000 - Signed to Subaru World Rally Team
1998 - Group A Norwegian Rally Champion
1997 - Norwegian hillclimbing Champion
1996 - Norwegian rallycross and hillclimbing Champion
1995 - Norwegian rallycross and hillclimbing Champion
Until recently, charismatic Norwegian Petter Solberg was widely regarded
as one of the WRC's ascendant stars and a champion in the making. But this all changed in 2003 when a meteoric rise through the ranks saw him crowned World Rally Champion far sooner than most people would have believed possible.
'Hollywood' as he is known is still one of the most effervescent and popular drivers in the WRC. A superstar in his native Norway, crowds of his most loyal supporters turn up at every WRC event to cheer on their hero. But don't be fooled into thinking that Solberg is just about a crowd-pleasing exterior. Underneath he's a determined competitor with a relentless work ethic and his sights set on breaking Mäkinen's record of four consecutive WRC titles. Watch this space.
A family affair
Petter started his rally career driving cars on the fields around his parents' farm near Oslo when he was just eight years old. His parents were both keen rallycross drivers, and Petter together with older brother Henning inherited their fascination with cars. As an 11-year-old Petter helped his parents build and maintain their autocross cars. Still far too young to compete himself, Petter raced radio-controlled cars and was Norwegian Champion at 13.
Second race, first win
His competition debut came in a round of the Norwegian Autocross Championship the day after he passed his driving test at the end of 1992. His second race took place the following year and he won! He quickly progressed from autocross to rallycross and then to hillclimbing, using a Ford Escort MK2, which his brother had given him.
From events to championships
In 1995, Petter acquired a Volvo 240, also from big brother Henning, and became the Norwegian Champion in both rallycross and hillclimbing, a feat he was to repeat in 1996, winning 19 of the 21 events he started. In September 1996, Petter made his rally debut using another car handed down by his brother, this time a Toyota Celica ST165. The following season, he acquired an ex-Thomas Rådström Toyota Celica ST185, which he used to once again win the Norwegian Hillclimb Championship, and to finish fifth in the Norwegian Rally Championship.
World Championship debut
Petter moved on to a Toyota Celica ST205 in 1998 and with it he won the Norwegian Rally Championship outright. This was the season where he finally made his World Rally Championship debut, finishing 14th in the Swedish Rally.
Call-up from Ford
By now Petter was getting noticed and, in 1999, signed to drive for the Ford World Rally Team, making his works debut in Sweden with an Escort WRC and Phil Mills as his new co-driver. Soon afterwards, Petter's career received a surprise boost thanks to the misfortune of a team-mate. When Thomas Rådström was injured just before the Safari Rally, Petter flew out as a last minute replacement and despite having no experience of the event, or the new Focus WRC car, he finished an excellent fifth place overall. With Radstrom still sidelined Petter kept his drive for Portugal where he finished 11th before rounding off his year with ninth in the Rally of Great Britain.
Subaru switch and that crucial first win
Petter stayed with Ford for the first half of the 2000 season, but in August switched to the Subaru World Rally Team. Despite some early setbacks he maintained a level-headed and cheerful approach and his efforts were rewarded in Greece with a superb career-best second place on one of the World Rally Championship's toughest events. For 2002, Petter partnered Tommi Mäkinen at Subaru and during the season he took podium places no less than five times. Petter's spectacular victory on the final round (his long-anticipated first WRC event win) took him to second place in the Championship.
World Rally Champion
Following in the footsteps of previous talented newcomers like Richard Burns and Colin McRae, who became World Champions with Subaru, Solberg ended the 2003 season in the best possible way. In a spectacular series finale, the 28-year-old won the Wales Rally GB to collect the fifth WRC win of his career, his second consecutive victory in Wales and secure the 2003 WRC Drivers' title. Since his first WRC win exactly 12 months before, he and co-driver Phil Mills had recorded four more outright rally victories, 48 stage wins and seven podium finishes. Not one to rest on his laurels, 2004 bought more spectacular achievements as Petter sought to maintain his title. He pushed hard, taking five wins, including victory on Subaru's home event in Japan and a third consecutive Rally GB. Despite finishing the season in second position overall, Petter was easily the fastest driver, clinching 95 stage wins during the year- 25 more than anyone else.