Big dreams ahead in Norwegian auto racing scene

Racing superstar Petter Solberg continues to break records this year while supporting the up-and-coming Dennis Olsen

Photos: Leonid Mamchenkov / Wikimedia Commons  Solberg kicks up a plume of dust at Cyprus Rally 2006.

Photos: Leonid Mamchenkov / Wikimedia Commons
Solberg kicks up a plume of dust at Cyprus Rally 2006.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

In Norway, Petter Solberg is the name of auto racing. The 39-year-old driver first competed in a rallycross race at age 18—just three days after receiving his driver’s license—and his career took off from there.

Solberg has continued to demonstrate a determination to win throughout his two decades of racing, both in rallycross and rally racing. Although he started off with rallycross (driving on mixed-surface racing circuits), he later moved on to rally (racing between control points on public and private roads).

Reminiscing over Solberg’s success, most Norwegians would think back to 2003, when Solberg became Norway’s first World Champion in rally racing. In fact, Solberg’s victory at the 2003 World Championships has repeatedly been ranked among the best-ever sports performances in Norway.

Since that historic breakthrough, Solberg has returned to his first love, rallycross. When NRK asked Solberg why he went back to rallycross, he replied, “Because I can see the future for this sport.”

In 2013, he formed his own team, the Petter Solberg World Rallycross Team, just in time for the World Rallycross Championships this year.

And he certainly has some big plans for 2014. “Well, the first thing we must do is create a show and make sure everybody thinks it’s fun to watch the races. The second thing we have to do is win. I always want to win,” Solberg said to NRK.

Without a doubt, Solberg is fulfilling these goals this season.

As of September 4, Solberg leads the World Championships with 155 points. The Finnish Toomas Heikkinen trails behind by 20 points, in second place. Solberg won both the first round in Portugal on May 4 and the seventh round in Canada on August 8. He also placed second in his home country during the race in Hell, Norway, on June 15. With two victories already, Solberg became the first ever to win multiple rounds in the World Rallycross Championships.

Solberg may be determined to win, but he isn’t showing signs of overconfidence just yet.

“There are still five rounds left in the season. And we still have a lot of work to do with the car for it to stay in its best condition throughout the year. It is fantastic to lead the World Championships by 20 points, but I have experience with things turning around quickly. The dream is to win the World Championships and become the first ever winner of two professional auto sports. We will fight hard to make that dream come true,” Solberg told NRK.

Photo: Prema Powerteam / NRK Up-and-coming driver Dennis Olsen appreciates the support he gets from champion Petter Solberg.

Photo: Prema Powerteam / NRK
Up-and-coming driver Dennis Olsen appreciates the support he gets from champion Petter Solberg.

Simultaneously, 18-year-old Norwegian Dennis Olsen has some lofty goals of his own. He has set his eye on the title of Norway’s first Formula One driver.

He is currently competing in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 races. On September 2, he finished in second place and is in a strong position in the competition. As a young competitor, however, Olsen needed additional funding in order to keep training and racing in the Eurocup.

Just in time, Olsen received sponsorship from none other than Petter Solberg! The racing legend notes that he has been following Olsen’s career for many years and feels a responsibility to help out young talent in the Norwegian auto racing scene.

Solberg describes his motives to NRK: “One of the reasons is that we see the opportunity and he is the one who has probably been the closest to having the opportunity to drive Formula One.”

With the funds from Solberg, Olsen plans to complete additional training before the three crucial rounds of the Eurocup. He is overjoyed with gratitude at Solberg’s support.

One might wonder if Olsen reminds Solberg of his own beginnings as a racer with big dreams at age 18. Who knows, maybe Dennis Olsen will be the next Petter Solberg?

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 12, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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