06 June 2024 ~ 0 Comments

Petter Solberg to drive Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 at Royal Rally of Scandinavia

The Bauhaus Royal Rally of Scandinavia, the third round of the 2024 European Rally Chamipionship, will have a true world-class driver ranks when it gets under starter’s orders in Karlstad, Sweden on 13 June. Petter Solberg has once again been coaxed out of ‘retirement’, and will be behind the wheel of his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 rally car.

Important vehicle
The car was last seen in action at the 2019 Wales Rally GB, and is a hugely important vehicle when it comes to sixth-generation Polo rally machines. Wearing chassis number one, it is the first Polo GTI R5 ever made by Volkswagen Motorsport. Solberg said the car was ‘calling him’ to be taken back to rally stages, and that he also had some encouragement from his son Oliver Solberg, the 2019 FIA ERC1 Junior Rally Champion. Solberg, who won the 2003 World Rally Championship said: ‘It was calling me… every time I was in the workshop, the car was telling me to use it! You can’t ignore that.’

‘You know me, you know this family – rallying is everything to us,’ Solberg continued. Last year I took my mother for a ride in my Citroën C4 WRC on one stage of Royal Rally. That was nice, but Oliver was having all the fun and winning the rally. I want to have some of that fun!” Solberg exclaims. Going with the Norwegian and his Polo to Sweden is Monster Energy, Pirelli, and Castrol, and the car will be wearing a special new and distinctive livery.

Solberg is preparing for his ‘fun’ on a simulator, and will bring his Polo out of hibernation for pre-event testing. ‘We’re hoping to make a proper test with the Polo before the rally. I think the driving should be OK, it’s more the pacenotes which take some more practice, as I haven’t competed on a rally for almost six years. I drove a stage on this rally last year, but my mother was co-driving – and she was not reading the pacenotes for me!’ Solberg joked.

Solberg’s Polo GTI R5 last turned its wheels in anger at last year’s Royal Rally of Scandinavia in the hands of Solberg Jnr – who is also competing in the same Swedish round of the ERC as his father in a Skoda Fabia Rally2. ‘Basically, he won the event, we washed the car down and put it in the museum. Now we will take it out, dust it down and go for a test,’ reports Solberg, who first slipped behind the wheel of chassis number one six years ago.

‘I was helping to test the Polo GTI R5, working with F-X Demaison, then technical director at Volkswagen Motorsport, and then competing in Catalunya with it in 2018. I have some really happy memories with the car. When we were in Spain, we were setting fastest times in WRC2 and having a fantastic time. After that, Oliver has driven it sometimes; he grew up with the car, so it is a special one,’ Solberg explains.

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally Spain: Solberg/Engan

‘One hell of a competition’
‘I don’t go to Karlstad trying to win, it’s for the show and to enjoy the driving. We know there are a lot of very fast drivers in ERC – it’s one hell of a competition. It will be tough. It’s five years since I did Rally GB (winning WRC2 and finishing 10th overall), nothing since then. The speed is incredible in the championship and you can’t just switch it back on,’ he continued. ‘This is the European Rally Championship with some big names and, don’t forget, a lot of those drivers have more experience of the stages than I do, having done the inaugural event last year.

‘It’s like this,’ laughed Petter. ‘I am Rocky coming back! I remember this film, it was a good fight, but Rocky didn’t win in the end… Seriously, this is to enjoy. The priority is to drive the car to give something to the rally fans coming from Norway and for those people watching the ERC from around the world. Last year we worked hard to help the organisers to build this event up and this is the same. Like always, we do everything we can to build rallying up some more,’ explained Solberg.

Jonas Andersson is on co-driving duties, and Solberg is revved up for the whole experience. ‘I am really looking forward to this, being back in the car is something special. I’m so excited. The comeback is on!’ Asked whether he can win, Solberg said coyly, ‘You know what it’s like when the helmet is coming on the head… I will say all of these things about the tough competition, but when the lights go out at the start of the stage – we all have one aim!’

2017 PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Polo GTI Supercar, World RX of Great Britain: Kristoffersson

Solberg’s PSRX World Rallycross Polo teammate Johan Kristoffersson will also be reunited with a Polo GTI R5 for the Royal Rally event, after being asked by Kristoffersson Motorsport sponsors Bauhaus. The six-time World Rallycross champion will compete with his family team’s Polo, with his former co- driver Stig Rune Skjærmoen. ‘I haven’t driven a gravel rally in the forest for five years, so expectations are low,’ Kristoffersson said. ‘It would have been nice to prepare properly, but there’s no time, so we’ll take it as it comes. It’s still fun to be the underdog for a change.’

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