5 May 2014
RX: Solberg wins season-opener in Portugal
2003 World Rally champion Petter Solberg secures Portuguese victory in opening round of the inaugural FIA World Rallycross Championship
2003 World Rally champion Petter Solberg won the opening round of the inaugural FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy last weekend after taking the honours in the World RX of Portugal final at the wheel of his PSRX Citroen DS3 Supercar.
The event was sold out as glorious sunshine greeted fans and World RX drivers at the Montalegre circuit, located just five miles from the Spanish border. Saturday's heats were dominated by Team Peugeot-Hansen driver Timur Timerzyanov but on Sunday it was Solberg who stole the limelight, winning both his heats plus the semi-finals and the all-important final.
“I am overwhelmed, today is like a dream,” explained an emotional Solberg who was joined in the six-car final by Andreas Bakkerud, Reinis Nitiss, Koen Pauwels, Volkswagen Marklund's Topi Heikkinen and Anton Marklund.
“I have been fighting for a victory for a long time so it is fantastic to finally get this win,” Petter continued. “It's like winning my first ever rally again and I'm sure even my mum and dad are proud of me! I have to thank my wife [Pernilla] too and I have some of the best mechanics, they are fantastic. Finally, I also want to thank IMG – they do an incredible job. I've never seen anyone promote a sport as well as they have done with rallycross. It's amazing.”
Bakkerud joined Solberg on the podium making it a one-two for Norway: “First of all, I want to congratulate Petter, I have seen how hard he has worked and he deserves this,” said 22-year-old Bakkerud who also scooped the Monster Energy Super Charge Award.
“The main point is that we've put Ford Olsbergs MSE at the top of the Team Championship and it's great to be sharing this podium with my team-mate Reinis.”
Meanwhile former F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve was unable to make Sunday's semi-finals after a fuel pressure problem and puncture hindered his progress.
“Everything went wrong this weekend, but that's part of racing,” said Villeneuve. “I've been racing long enough to know that nine times out of ten you get hacked off, but then you have that one special day when it makes you forget about the other nine times. It's been a hard weekend for everyone, the car was late, we didn't have enough people working on the cars due to things outside of our control and the guys have had to do a couple of all nighters, so it's turned out to be a weekend more of an appetiser than the proper start to the season.”
“Coming here from Indy I was really hoping to have a good result here and go back ready for the Indy 500 pumped up, but that hasn't happened which leaves me a little frustrated. It's left me hungry, it didn't really give me a taste of real rallycross as we had too many issues, so it took the fun away, but the little testing we did have gave me a better outlook of what it should feel like so I'm not going to take this weekend as an example. We'll have more time to prepare before the next time.”
Round two of World RX, World RX of Great Britain, takes place at Lydden Hill from 24-25 May..
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