Petter Solberg has made an emotional return to Japan last week, visiting friends and his Subaru ‘family’ in Mitaka City as well as Central Rally Aichi in Nagakuta.
Solberg won his 2003 FIA World Rally Championship with Subaru and was delighted to visit Subaru Tecnica International headquarters, where he was reunited with the last factory Subaru Impreza WRC he drove in 2008.
"It was such a big honor for me to meet [Subaru Tecnica International] president Mr [Yasuo] Hiraoka and to drive the car again," Solberg said. "It felt like it was yesterday when I was competing with the team and we were winning together."
As Petter fired up that car for the first time in 11 years, more than 3000 fans turned out to watch him one more time.
"Subaru was family for me for a very long time and it was really emotional to see so many of that family and those friends again," he said. "There were more than 3000 people there at the factory – it was incredible to see so many of them and to have them remembering me so warmly."
The Norwegian had plenty of words of encouragement for Japan’s return to the World Rally Championship next season.
"It’s been too long that the WRC has been away from Japan, but you can see from being here [in Nagakuta] just what it means to know the rally is coming back in one year," Petter adds. "I think it’s going to be one of the best supported rounds of the season!”