Petter Solberg was the star of the show on the opening day of round two of the FIA European Rallycross Championship at Montalegre in northern Portugal.

The 2003 World Rally Champion won both of his qualifying heats in style at the wheel of his all-carbon Citroen DS3 Supercar. The car, which has had extensive work carried out on it since making its debut at Lydden Hill in England nearly a month ago, was lightning-quick off the line on both occasions to give the Norwegian a resounding advantage that he never lost.

He won his first heat by a virtually unprecedented four seconds, before winning the second heat by 1.6 seconds. On both occasions Hollywood's nearest rival was French Citroen C4 driver Davy Jeanney.

However, the Norwegian had a big scare in the second heat when the left-rear wheel came loose, making his Citroen very difficult to control. Nonetheless, Petter managed to keep everything together and seal a second victory, despite the wheel finally coming off just as he crossed the finish line.

Portugal is normally associated with bright sunshine and sandy beaches, but much to the surprise of all the competitors - not to mention the enthusiastic crowds of local spectators - intermittent snow fell on the Montalegre circuit throughout the day. This made conditions even more difficult than usual but Solberg still reigned supreme in spite of the inconsistent grip.

"It's just incredible; I really don't know what to say," commented a visibly emotional Solberg at the end of the heats. "At the first round in Lydden, everything that could possibly go wrong did, so we had to completely rebuild the car between then and now. Nobody has slept at all and everybody put in their biggest efforts. But it meant that we arrived here in Portugal not really knowing how competitive we would be. Now we know, but we've still got it all to do tomorrow.

"We're going to enjoy this moment for now but of course our focus has to be on the finals tomorrow. It's been a really difficult day with conditions that nobody would have expected, but finally I feel that we're beginning to achieve something in rallycross. And that's thanks to all the guys in our team, who have worked so hard to get us into this position."

Tomorrow [Sunday] the competitors face the semi-finals and finals, where Solberg will be aiming to record his first victory in rallycross at this level: a form of motorsport that he hasn't competed in since 1996.

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