Reflecting on Solberg’s last full-length WRC victory

With an upgraded Impreza, the 2003 world champion banished the demons of the previous year's retirement in fine fashion


Petter Solberg isn’t short of World Rally Championship victories. In fact, he won 13 events across a career that peaked with the 2003 world title. But Rally México will always mark an important moment in his career as it’s the last full rally Solberg ever won.

Rally GB 2005 will ultimately go down as Solberg’s final victory, but it was a rally marred by the tragic loss of Michael Park. Although Solberg won the event, there was no room for celebration. The same couldn’t be said of his victory some months earlier in México.

México was an event that immediately seemed to suit Solberg. After all, he led the rally after the first day on its WRC debut in 2004, only for the battery in his Impreza WRC to fail and force him and co-driver Phil Mills to push it into service and incur a time penalty.

Solberg started the 2005 event in red-hot form, having won the previous round in Sweden. Honors were even between him and reigning world champion Sébastien Loeb who had won the first round in Monte Carlo, but neither led the way. That honor rested with Ford’s Toni Gardemeister.

But Solberg and Loeb soon took center stage once the rally got underway. Solberg continued his fine form from the previous years and was troubling his rivals, while Loeb instead was troubling the local constabulary.

His rally had got off to a bad start with an engine problem on shakedown; a change before the rally breaking the sporting regulations and costing Citroën $10,000. He then lost the rear-right wheel on the first day and had to drive to service with just three wheels on his Xsara WRC.

Loeb’s demise unquestionably eased the pressure on Solberg, but with Peugeot’s Marcus Grönholm close behind he couldn’t relax. Brake problems afflicted the 307 WRC which lightened the load somewhat, but Solberg couldn’t break more than half a minute clear of his rival.

I was so nervous before the rally, so nervous, and I was not really happy with the car before the start, so to go and win this rally like this it's really good fun Petter Solberg on his 2005 victory

However, in truth, the Rally México result was only ever going one way in 2005. Debuting the updated S11 version of the Impreza WRC, Solberg ultimately led the rally from start to finish to make full amends for his heartbreak 12 months earlier.

The celebrations at the end of that final stage were typically energetic,

“It’s really good fun, really good fun,” Solberg said. “The car is getting better and better and really happy, incredible.

“I’m just so pleased, I was so nervous before the rally, so nervous, and I was not really happy with the car before the start, so to go and win this rally like this it’s really good fun.

“The whole team is just so intact; everybody is doing their whole the job the way it should be. Everybody is on top form and we’re going to stay like this the whole year now.”


Despite taking the championship lead with his Mexican win, sadly Solberg’s words would be proved false as Loeb simply grabbed hold of the championship and ran free. And the signs were already there in Mexico.

Loeb pulled off a miraculous comeback to climb all the way up to fourth position despite his day one retirement, overhauling both Gardemeister and Mitsubishi’s Harri Rovanperä in an epic final stage performance that was over 30 seconds faster than anyone else.

The nine-time world champion would then make Rally México his own, going unbeaten from 2006-2012 in Xsara, C4 and DS3 WRC machinery.