Norwegian motorsport hero Petter Solberg was inducted into the FIA’s Hall of Fame in Paris tonight (Wednesday), with his name on the wall alongside 16 other World Rally Champions.
In an evening of WRC celebration hosted by FIA president Jean Todt, Petter admitted he was honoured to be part of the Hall of Fame.
Petter said: “What an incredible evening. Firstly I think we have to say a big thank you to our president, Jean Todt for making this special moment happen.
“I have so much passion for this sport and to be back in a room with so many people from this sport and so many guys I have worked with as a team mate, it’s fantastic.
“It was a special moment for Phil [Mills, co-driver] and me to win the World Rally Championship in 2003. You know, I am coming from Norway, it’s not the biggest country, so to win against so many incredible drivers was fantastic for me. And tonight is another special moment.
“I have to thank Malcolm Wilson for giving me the chance in this great sport and of course to David Richards for the opportunity he gave me and that Phil and I worked so hard for.
“To be in the [Subaru] team with Tommi [Mäkinen] when he retired from the sport was a real honour. I learned so much from him, like I learned from Colin [McRae], Carlos [Sainz] and all of those guys. It’s really sad that we’re here without Colin, Richard [Burns] and, of course, our first winner Björn Waldegård – but we will always remember those guys, especially now that we are all together in the FIA’s Hall of Fame.
“Tonight has reminded me of some great battles, what about Sébastien Loeb, eh… maybe we should go back and start our fight again! But also it reminds me of the great friendships that will last for a lifetime.
“Finally, I want to say a big thank you to my co-driver Phil. Co-driving is such a tough job for those crazy guys who want to sit next to us, but Phil and I have an amazing relationship. He’s such a fantastic person with a fantastic voice – when I go to bed at night, I still hear that voice!”
Phil Mills had planned to join Petter in Paris, but, snow-bound at home in Wales, sent a video message.
Phil said: “Congratulations Petter! We had 11 fantastic years together, 11 world tours, back-to-back. What great times and never better than in 2003. I’m so proud to have played a role with you. They were great days, great memories and this is a fantastic achievement, well done.”
FIA President Jean Todt explained the significance of the Hall of Fame. He said: “The FIA Hall of Fame recognises the successes of the champions in our World Championships.
“With the World Rally Champions now joining the Formula One World Champions in the FIA Hall of Fame, it adds another storyboard that documents a fascinating journey through time, both with the drivers, co-drivers and their machinery.
“To see the progress we have made in rally safety over the decades is particularly pleasing and one of the highlights in the on-going evolution of the Championship. When you see the cars from so many eras, the developments in technology are also clear to see. The stars of the World Rally Championship have so many captivating stories to tell which I’m sure will not only fascinate the rally fans but hopefully inspire future generations.”