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Petter ‘Hollywood’ Solberg was denied a place in the final at round three of the FIA European Rallycross Championship at Nyirad in Hungary by a puncture during the semi-final, having topped the times in practice yesterday and won his group in heat four today.
His success was watched by a huge and enthusiastic crowd of local fans in dry and warm conditions. They were rewarded, as always, with a great show from the most popular driver in rallycross – who loves spending time with the fans almost as much as he does spending time on the track…
However, throughout the weekend the Norwegian had to battle engine problems, which prevented him from consistently showing everything that he was capable of.
The Petter Solberg RX Team mechanics worked all night to try and get to the bottom of the problem, but despite their very best efforts, the issue persisted throughout the second day. In the third heat – which was the first time that Petter took to the track today – the engine stopped straight after the start, meaning that he came to a sudden and unexpected halt. Undeterred, the 2003 World Rally Champion got his Citroen DS3 Supercar going again and raced to the finish, ending up 7.8 seconds behind the winner.
It was business as usual for Petter during the fourth and final heat – which would determine who went through to the semi-final. ‘Hollywood’ made a great start and went straight into the lead, holding off all his rivals to win the race convincingly. At this point, with a semi-final place in the bag, it seemed that Petter’s luck was finally about to turn – even though the problems he had with the engine were still putting him at a disadvantage.
As it turned out though, the weekend ended with disappointment in the semi-finals. Petter started from the second row and didn’t make a perfect start, but he soon fought his way up to third, which became second after the leader went on his joker lap. ‘Hollywood’ was as usual on a complete mission – but then on the third lap he picked up a front-right puncture, from out of nowhere. With no hope of a strong result left, he cruised to the finish and prepared for the long trip back home. While bitterly disappointed, Petter was still able to take several positives from his weekend in Hungary.
“First of all I have to say how much I enjoyed being in Hungary and meeting all the great fans there,” said Petter. “Although we worked so hard throughout the weekend, it was clear that the engine problem we had was not going to be something that we could fix in a hurry. Still, we found some ways to work around it: I wasn’t using fifth gear for example. And even so, we managed to be fast, which is fantastic! If we had found a bit more luck, we would have been a different story I think, but that’s part of the game and that’s why this sport is so tough. These experiences don’t put us off at all: instead they just make us more determined to come back even stronger at the next round. Between now and then, we’ve got a lot of work ahead to get everything sorted, but our car is still really new, we’ve had to do everything ourselves and this is simply how you do development…”
The next round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship takes place at Kouvola in Finland from 8-9 June.
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