In the ’10s, before ‘electric’ became the word almost exclusively associated with the phrase ‘the future of motorsport’, rallycross was seen for a while as the next big thing.
Global Rallycross had originated from the US and had gone, well, ‘global’ in 2013, taking in events in Brazil, Spain, and Germany as well as a handful Stateside. In response, the FIA-backed World Rallycross Championship began the following year, giving rallycross a full-on world championship-status series for the very first time.
The first World RX season featured 12 rounds across Europe, North and South America, and every already established name from the world of European rallycross. There was also some bloke called Petter Solberg who, after competing in minor-league rallycross early on in his career, won the 2003 World Rally Championship.
As the history books show, Solberg went on to add two World RX crowns to his WRC one, making him not only the first world champion rallycross driver, but the first driver ever to claim two FIA world championship titles in two different disciplines.
Solberg’s two-year stay at the top of the World RX tree began with a win in the first ever race in Montalegre, Portugal in May 2014.
The Norwegian topped the practice times and won two of his heats to finish the preliminary stage of the event second overall. In the semi-finals, he beat the reigning Global Rallycross champion Topi Heikkinen by nearly three seconds, then in the final he headed home compatriot Andreas Bakkerud by 2.3 seconds.
It wasn’t the best start to the final for Solberg, who was bettered by Bakkerud and Heikkinen off the line. But with Bakkerud opting for the joker on the first lap of the race Solberg, who went into the first corner (the location of the joker entry) in second place, had the clean air to gain time.
The strategy paid off for Solberg who, while resisting pressure from Heikkinen, was able to build a gap to Bakkerud.
Heikkinen took his joker on the penultimate lap of the race, but was passed by Bakkerud and Reinis Nitišs in the other Olsbergs MSE entry. Meanwhile Solberg jokered on the final lap of the six-lap final, but had built up such an unassailable lead that he was able to hold on for a convincing win.
Solberg’s win was vindication after a challenging 2013 European Rallycross season in which he finished on the podium just twice as reliability issues blighted his campaign.
The victory was also the first of 10 wins in World RX for Solberg. He is currently joint second on the series’ all-time wins list, equal with 2016 champion Mattias Ekström and only behind his 2017 and 2018 Volkswagen team-mate Johan Kristoffersson.