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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 November, 2003, 12:16 GMT
Double success for Solberg
Petter Solberg celebrates his title-clinching win in Wales

Petter Solberg clinched his first world rally championship by winning the Wales Rally GB on Sunday.

Co-driven by Welshman Phil Mills, he safely negotiated the final three stages to win by 43.6 seconds from title challenger Sebastien Loeb.

Subaru's Solberg is the first Norwegian to take the drivers' crown.

Citroen driver Loeb went into the final rally of the season one point ahead of his rival in the standings but was hindered by team orders.

Citroen asked him not to push too hard as they battled with Peugeot for the manufacturers' championship.

He responded by bringing his car home a safe second to give Citroen the title they really wanted.

I never dreamed after winning here last year that when I came back I would be world champion
Petter Solberg

The chase for the drivers' title had been reduced to a two-way scrap between Solberg and Loeb.

British contender Richard Burns never started in Wales after pulling out for health reasons, while Carlos Sainz crashed out on Friday.

Solberg won his first-ever world rally in Wales last year and was in control from the first morning.

He went into the final day with a comfortable lead after winning all eight stages on Saturday.

The 28-year-old backed off in Sunday's early stages, helping Loeb take two stage wins.

But that was not enough to put the outcome in doubt going into the final stage at Margam Park, which was won by Solberg.

Scotland's Colin McRae suffered a puncture on the last stage, ending his chances of overhauling Subaru's Tommi Makinen for third.

The 1995 world champion, who will take a sabbatical after being released by Citroen,finished 2mins 29.3secs behind Makinen.

The Finnish four-time world champion, in his final rally before retiring, was 2mins 15.2secs adrift of Loeb.

Loeb admitted afterwards: "It was very hard and I was under a lot of pressure.

"I had to try and push for my championship but I also had to keep it steady and on the road for the team.

"But I will be back next year and hopefully I can go for the drivers' championship."




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World Rally Champion Petter Solberg
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BBC Five Live's Jonathan Legard
"Rallying's brightest new star, Petter Solberg, lit up the future"



WORLD RALLY 2003

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