Petter Solberg enjoyed a strong season this year and his privately entered team took the fight to the factory cars of Sebastien Loeb, Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala et al on more than one occasion.

Indeed such was his form, that we gave him top spot in our 2010 top ten World Rally drivers' ranking. Here the Norwegian speaks exclusively to Radio's Rob Wilkins about the season just gone and he talks candidly about what might happen in 2011...
Petter, congratulations on a great year, recently gave you top spot in our 2010 top ten World Rally drivers' list. What do accolades like that mean to you?

Petter Solberg
It means a lot to me and it is nice to get that credit for everything we have gone through [this year]. We are pushing the limits and for me it is a very good thing personally.
What you achieved this season was remarkable - third in the drivers' championship and eight podiums. Did you think you could do that at the start of the season?

To be honest, I know we are a private team, have a small budget and only have two cars - and if I had had a big accident I think the championship would have been over for me this year - but I know also that I am fast enough to do it. I would never have started it if I knew it wasn't possible to fight in the top-three. Everybody said, even my engineer, FX [Fran?ois-Xavier Demaison], said it was very difficult. But I said: 'Let's try and if we can do it and prove it, it means that anything is possible'.
Looking back over 2010, what would you say was the highlight?

When it started in Mexico, the first of our eight podiums - that was special. But all of the rallies have been good, except for Sweden. New Zealand we had a big, big chance of winning, like many other rallies. But it is a lot to do with strategy and politics - you know how it is. Rally GB was maybe one of the better ones this year and Spain also was very remarkable.
You changed co-drivers after Portugal. How have things gelled with Chris Patterson and have you missed Phil Mills at all?

Of course I miss Phil. It is hard not to. But the job that Chris has done is unbelievable. He is a very clever guy and has really done his work properly. You need to put a lot of work and effort in. I am quite a perfectionist and want to have everything right. But he is doing a very good job and I have been very impressed with what he has done.
I understand you had to fund the final couple of events out of your own pocket. How tough was it running your own team?

Like I've said before, you never know how it is going to go with the budget. When you start something though, you just have to finish it. It has been hard work and I have not been at home much. It is the same now after the rallies and we will just have to see how far we can come to get everything together [for 2011]. I still don't have anything ready, except for the one rally with the Peugeot [in the IRC]. It is good to have something.
As you said, you are going to do Rallye Monte Carlo with a Peugeot 207 Super 2000. Are you looking forward to that?

Very much, I like driving and I hope it will help my position with Citroen [as Citroen and Peugeot are both part of the PSA group]. It is a tough rally. But it will be good to get into a rhythm with that type of car and with the gearbox and learn to drive with a little bit less horsepower. It is a smaller car and we will run on Michelin tyres. We will have five days running and for me it is important to get some kilometres in before the proper season starts with the WRC, if I get all the deals and everything together to do that.
It looks like it will be quite a competitive line-up for the Rallye Monte Carlo. What do you think you can do there?

I have been fast all year on tarmac and have fought with Sebastien [Loeb] on every rally. I can do whatever I want and Peugeot want me to win. I will do like normal and do a big push. But I will think a little bit about the strategy too through the whole rally because it is quite a tricky one.
What do you think of the IRC?

It is a good class, a good system. They do good publicity for the Rallye Monte Carlo, with live coverage on the TV and stuff like that. It is very, very good how they do it. But the World Championship is the main thing for me - you have to be in the highest class and in the WRC. That is it.
Can you tell us anything more about how planning is going for 2011?

I have nothing yet. I am working on it. I hope I can get everything together in the short time we have. I want to sort it as soon as possible. But I haven't signed with the sponsors yet and haven't got all the things together. I am though trying everything I can. Don't worry I am flat out.
You have of course run in Citroens for the last two years, is the Citroen Junior Team still a possibility, as has been rumoured?

Well, if it is the Citroen Junior Team, they have to be responsible for absolutely everything. I cannot get my sponsors on board, if the name of the team is not the 'Petter Solberg World Rally Team'. So, if I am driving in the Citroen Junior Team they will take all of the credit and so they have to pay for everything. It is a very tricky and difficult situation.
What about Ford or Mini? Is that a possibility?

Anything can happen. Honestly, I am open to anything. I have had a couple of talks with Malcolm [Wilson - Ford/M-Sport boss]. But I haven't heard anything back and it is difficult to go any further with it. I just have to work on my own thing and stick with my strategy and try and find a solution with Citroen. If I can't find one, that is it.
There have been reports that you might do a season of circuit racing. Could that still happen?

Yeah, if I don't get all the season together, all the planning done and have a chance to fight for the victories, and get the budget. I won't have any choice, that is how it works. It is quite simple if you don't have the package, you do something else where they want you. I know for sure in Le Mans they want me. There has been interest from a couple of GT teams. It sounds and looks easier and better. Maybe I will go to America - that's another option. Honestly, I try this now [WRC] and then we will see.
The current WRC car era ended on Wales Rally GB. How do you think the sport is looking for 2011 with the new breed of cars coming in?

I think it will be a good close fight between the manufacturers. It is easier for other manufacturers to come in because of the rule changes. Smaller cars - it is a good idea. But I think it will be much the same [still just as good to watch] - and don't worry, if I get a car, I will go absolutely mad to push! You will see people attacking.



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