Petter Solberg rules himself out of 2013 World Rally Championship
|By David Evans||Tuesday, December 4th 2012, 11:06 GMT|
Petter Solberg has ruled himself out of next year's World Rally Championship - which will be the first time the Norwegian has not competed regularly at rallying's highest level since 1998.
Solberg has stated consistently that he would not pay to retain his seat in the Qatar M-Sport team in 2013 and has now decided that he will pursue other options in motorsport next year.
Solberg said: "I am so grateful and happy for what I have experienced during my 15 years in the WRC.
"For now it's really quite sad. I would have loved to have driven for a few more years, but I do realise there will not be a WRC programme for me next year. I have said I am willing to drive for free, but at this point, I will not pay to drive.
"This is not to say that you will never again see me in a WRC car, but for now, I think it's best."
Despite his decision to step away from the WRC, Solberg remains confident in his abilities to win rallies at the highest level.
"I know I am good enough to fight in the top for many years still," he said, "but I fully understand the difficult financial situation for the 2013 season for M-Sport, so I wish the team all the best in the future."
"The sport has given me so much," said Solberg, "but I want to give a special thank you to all of my fans that have supported me through thick and thin, and given me such a great feeling about what I do, and for being a large reason of why I do it.
"I do hope you all understand, and I hope you'll continue to follow me on to my next venture. I promise to bring you something worthy of this."
Rally editor David Evans
So, has he retired? Absolutely not. Will he be back? Try and stop him. Petter Solberg and the World Rally Championship are made for each other and next season's series will be by far the poorer without him.
Solberg is not only part of the reasonably old guard (and therefore able to offer some sort of historical context on the sport), but he's also a great entertainer; 12 years after he first stepped into a factory Ford World Rally Car for the first time, his unbridled enthusiasm for driving cars fast and pleasing people remains absolute.
And that's reflected in the way Solberg worked himself to a standstill to stay in the sport after Subaru's 2008 departure. He should be given maximum respect for the ridiculous hours he put in to establish and run his own team for three years.
His return to Ford simply didn't go to plan this year and now he's faced with the kind of simple economic reality that has - in some shape or form - impacted on the lives of pretty much everybody on the planet.
But, were he to be offered the factory seat he still deserves, he'd be back in a shot.