|PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.|
The Norwegian icon will compete in a selection of events this year in a Farewell Tour.
Solberg has had a superb motorsport career in where he claimed a World Rally Championship and two FIA World Rallycross Championships in 2014/15.
“I want to say straight away that my helmet stays on my head,” said Solberg. “I’m not hanging it up. I will still compete in some big events this year and in the future. But I am retiring from world championships. Last year’s World RX Championship was the last one for me."
The 44-year-old Norwegian was hospitalized following a first-corner crash in Latvia (in 2017), where he broke two ribs and his collarbone. Following an X-ray, it was discovered that one of his lungs were producing too much iron. Solberg explained that he suffered from a lack of energy, he noticed some changes in eyesight and he started shaking.
Following Solberg's diagnoses, he noticed that he could race competitively, but would struggle with tiredness and fatigue after climbing out of his race car. He contemplated finding a replacement for the 2018 season but ultimately decided to continue in the championship.
“Honestly, it’s because the time is right," says Solberg. "I had some sickness for the last couple of years which made me think about what I really wanted to do, but I recovered from that a couple of months ago. My fitness and energy are all back now and I’m ready for a new challenge."
Solberg reflects on his time in the FIA World Rally Championship.
“The years I spent with Subaru in WRC, I will never forget them. These people were – and remain – like family to me. We shared some special, special moments," he adds.
“But it’s incredible how 20 years have gone in a flash. It feels like yesterday that Colin [McRae] and Carlos [Sainz] were shouting at me for asking too many questions when I joined the Ford World Rally Team in 1999!"
|Solberg leading Timmy Hansen at the 2018 Gumtree World RX of SA.|
PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World RX Media.
“Volkswagen’s decision to take a break from World Rallycross was also a factor in my decision, but I have some serious ambitions for the future and I want to start working towards those," said Solberg.
The Norwegian's Farewell Tour will begin in July at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, then move to Norway's biggest hillclimb, and Gymkhana GRiD World Finals in September.
“I start with two hillclimbs – the first is one of the most prestigious events in motorsport, Goodwood’s Festival of Speed and the second is very, very important to me and to my family in Norway, it’s Norges Råeste Bakkeløp," says Solberg.
“Next we have the Gymkhana GRiD World Finals on September 7th; which is going to be just amazing with so many people. Technically, this is some of the toughest driving you can do, you have to be so precise all the time."
“There are more surprises to come this year and they’re good ones."
Solberg reiterates that he is not hanging up his helmet completely.
“It’s important to understand I will continue to do big events into the future, all around the world. And I want to do these things, this is where the passion is for me – I love to give people the big smile and make sure they enjoy themselves," explained Solberg. "My driving makes people smile and that’s why I never stop."
TEXT - Junaid Samodien