WRC Wales Rally GB: Solberg to be official 'Rally Legend'

Petter Solberg to be second official Wales Rally GB 'Rally Legend'
2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg will be the official 'Rally Legend' on Wales Rally GB this year, it has been announced.

The annual 'Rally Legend' tribute was introduced in 2014 to celebrate the outstanding achievements of a past hero. Ari Vatanen was the first to be honoured and now the flamboyant Solberg – always a massive favourite with the fans – will be the second.

The 40-year-old Norwegian – nicknamed 'Hollywood' – is one of only two drivers to have won Rally GB four times.

He is also the only man to have won FIA World Championship titles in two different motor sport disciplines, following up his WRC title with the inaugural World Rallycross crown last year – a series he leads again in 2015.

“It's a real honour to be invited to be the Rally Legend for Wales Rally GB,” said Petter, who will be in Wales during the forthcoming WRC event. “As many already know, this is an event which is very close to my heart for so many reasons. Rally GB was the first round of the World Rally Championship I ever won [in 2002] and I can never forget that feeling. I thought the feeling couldn't be beaten. But it was, twelve months later, when I came back to Wales and won the World Rally Championship – now that was a party!

“Obviously, every driver wants to achieve these kinds of goals at their home event, if possible. That wasn't possible, but Wales was like a second home event for me; if it couldn't be Norway then I was so happy it was in Wales. My co-driver, Phil Mills, is of course from Wales and it was fantastic to feel the support and the passion from so many fans.”

Although Solberg and Mills in their iconic blue Subaru Impreza dominated the then Cardiff-based event between 2002 and 2005, the task was never easy and, sadly, their final victory was tainted by tragedy.

“Wales is a hell of a tough country to rally in: the roads are incredible, some of the best stages in the world, but all the time the grip is changing and everything has to be absolutely perfect to win,” admitted Petter. “I managed to win this event four times, but of course the last one doesn't really count. Ten years ago, we saw the tragedy in our sport, when our friend 'Beef' [Michael Park, co-driver to Markko Martin] lost his life on that rally. I don't count that one.”

A decade on Solberg's thoughts will still be with Park as he returns to Wales in November - and also with one of the sport's other much-missed superheroes.

“Another reason I'm so pleased to be asked to be a Rally Legend this year is because it's 20 years since Colin McRae won this rally to win his World Championship. Colin was an incredible guy, a real superhero of our sport. I remember sitting with him when I joined the Ford team. I couldn't believe a car could be driven like that, especially not by a man who was so down-to-earth and normal as Colin.

“I was lucky enough to get to know Colin really well. And being associated with an event which has such memories of this man is a big, big moment for me. We have seen Wales Rally GB coming through some tough times in recent years, but there's no doubt now that it is back to its best. This is a rally worthy of the name and definitely worthy of its place as one of the sport's greats.”

Ben Taylor, Wales Rally GB managing director, added: “Petter is the perfect choice to join the great Ari Vatanen in what is our very own 'hall of fame'. Ever the extrovert, he has always had a massive following with UK fans, especially with Phil alongside him, and he has won this rally more times than anyone else.

“He has all the right iconic credentials to be our second official 'Rally Legend' and we are thrilled that he has agreed to join us in November.”

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Petter Solberg (NOR), Citroen, World Rallycross, [Credit: Petter Solberg.com]
Petter Solberg. France. FIA World Rallycross Championship.
Petter Solberg (NOR), Citroen DS3 WRC, Petter Solberg Rallying
Petter Solberg (NOR), Ford Fiesta WRC, Ford World Rally Team
Petter Solberg
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills - Subaru Impreza WRC
Subaru`s Petter Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills celebrate victory on the Rally GB - which in the process clinched the 2003 World Rally drivers` title
Tommi `Golden Boots` Makinen celebrates with a euphoric Petter Solberg at the finish line

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