M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson has paid tribute to Petter Solberg after the Norwegian confirmed that he won't compete in the World Rally Championship next season.
Solberg announced on Tuesday that he would sit out the 2013 campaign
as he wasn't prepared to pay for a drive following Ford's decision to withdraw its manufacturer support for the M-Sport squad.
The 2003 champion hasn't ruled out a return to the series in future, but Wilson admitted it would be strange not to have the Norwegian in the paddock when the WRC heads to Monte Carlo for the first round of the 2013 campaign.
“It will be strange to begin a WRC season with no Petter Solberg in the service park, and I will miss him on a personal as well as a professional level,” Wilson said. “When we first signed him back in 1999, he was a fresh-faced youngster with a lot of potential and equally a lot to learn, and when he returned to Ford more than a decade later as a world champion, it was like he had come home.
“It was a pleasure to have Petter in the team this year and we are delighted to have shared in some of his many successes in rallying. We wish him well for the future.”
Ford Racing senior manager Gerard Quinn also paid tribute to the former Subaru man.
“Petter has been a charismatic and popular member of the service park for over a decade, and we are sure that motorsport has not seen the last of him,” he said. “All of us at Ford wish him every future success.”