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GP Week : Issue 110
S ince they arrived on the scene in 1998, the two rally driving brothers Solberg have provided quite an unusual presence to the world championship, and now they have achieved something for the record books. When Henning Solberg takes to the start of the forthcoming Jordan Rally, it will be the first time two brothers have each reached 100 WRc starts. 37 year-old Henning, the elder brother of former World Champion Petter, is nowadays the oldest regular driver in the WRC series, and becomes the 21st driver in the history of the series to reach the 100 level. He is not however the oldest driver to gain this accolade. No fewer than seven drivers in the past have been older when they have reached this level Henning arrived in the world 22 months before Petter, but they both turned to rallying at much the same time. They were born right at the start of the rallying revolution. Henning came in early 1973, 11 days before the world championship started – Petter incidentally on the second day of the 1974 RAC Rally! Henning has now been hovering close to the top of the sport for a long time, gaining a podium result on WRC events five times, mostly in Peugeot and Ford World Rally cars, although the two brothers were first seen in old timer Group A Celica GT-4 cars. They both moved quickly on to World Rally Cars and, until last year when Henning started rallying Super 2000, they have stayed there all the time. “ Yes, I originally rallied a two-wheel-drive car. My very first rally car was a Volvo 240 in 1995, but four-wheel-drive cars are proper rally cars and I am really happy to have the chance to drive them! I must say that I think both Petter and I had the chance of arriving in the sport at the right time. We were among the first group of drivers able to go straight into rallying in the four-wheel-drive turbocharged era. Drivers in earlier years had to learn to adjust their driving, which we did not have to do.” When the Solbergs started to take an interest in motor sport, Norwegian rallying was busily recovering from a long spell when the activity had been banned. Motor sport was however very much alive in other disciplines: “I always liked motorsport and rallying is for me the top type of motorsport. I started my career off with co-driving and went on to all the different kinds of rallycross, hillclimb and then I end up with proper rally driving. “I think Petter and I took an interest in rallying at the same time. As always, money was a big issue, and as things transpired I came to do a lot more rallying back in Norway than Petter. I did not have the budget to go seriously at world rally level to start with, so I had to wait until I got the good sponsorship. But then things came good for me.” Things really got going for Henning when he entered a sponsorship agreement with Expert. From 2006 until 2010 his cars were coloured a very distinctive and attractive orange. In 2011 this agreement continues. albeit at a reduced level, and Henning arrived in Portugal with the colours of a new sponsor, Ludo mobile phones, which were equally distinctive. Do you remember the blocks of colours in the Benetton F1 cars? Henning’s rally car was just like that! His work with Expert is centred on the Norweigan market: “ We have been working in the Expert stores and appearing on T V commercials. They have done very good work for us, helping us to be known. They have been great! They have helped me become famous on the TV, very helpful now we are beginning to move on. Regarding Ludo, we will see. Hopefully they will be here for the whole season.” Rallying is full of ups and downs and Henning has seen them all. “First of all I wanted to drive in a works team but that did not happen. There have not been so many opportunities and many other drivers were looking for drives in front of me. But I have to say I am quite happy with what we have managed to achieve over the years. I have had several podiums and a lot of other top places, and I often lost the chance of podium places only because of technical problems, but that is how it is. “It is a special shame that my car broke down in Greece in 2008 because Petter and I would have been on the podium together, but it was not to be. I had engine troubles on the last day and dropped down to eighth. That was a shame.” There are always two sides to every situation, so it was interesting to ask brother Petter how he regards their parallel careers: “For sure Henning enjoys life and he enjoys driving and loves cars. I think for two brothers to do the same thing is quite amazing. He is having fun – that for him is the special thing about it. He likes the technical stuff, he likes the cars and doing things. “ To start with I guess we both wanted to do our own things, but Henning did not want us to do things together. But that was impossible because we both wanted to go rallying. He enjoys pushing the limits and of course you have to remember it hasn’t been easy for him with his small brother having success. “I have spoken with the Schumachers and asked how their family adjusted to the two competitive brothers. I think it is a matter of how much each of you want to 40