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Petter SolbergPetter just gets better

The man
Bubbly and effervescent, Petter 'Hollywood' Solberg is an emotional guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. A natural at the wheel and in front of the camera, Solberg leads the new generation of WRC superstars, but still has his feet firmly on the ground. He has the noisiest bunch of fans on the WRC circuit, but always takes time to meet them during rallies and organises big parties for his supporters' club back home. And he knows how to party - this former disco-dancing champion often struts his stuff at post-rally bashes. He also broke a thousand hearts when he married long-time girlfriend Pernilla last year.

The driver
His disco-dancing background gives a hint at how this man drives his Subaru Impreza. He describes driving a rally car like this: "I want to dance through the woods. It's about flow and rhythm. But every time you go sideways, you're losing time. Judging speed and cornering is very much a physical thing. I feel it through my bum, mainly. That's the dancing element, I guess. I feel when I'm going too sideways, rather than looking at an angle through the windscreen. That bit's physical. A 'flow' doesn't mean getting ragged or sloppy – it's just like finding a natural rhythm or work rate."

The prospects
He's the reigning champion, and there's no reason why he shouldn't be right in the middle of the title fight again this year. The Subaru Impreza WRC is an excellent all-round car and, in 2003, its Pirelli tyres were more consistently competitive with the Michelins used by everybody else than ever before - in damp and wet conditions they often had an advantage. Don't count him out.

The history
Petter's motorsport career was initially outside rallying, as he competed in Ford Escorts and Volvo 240 Turbos, with some success, in both rallycross and hillclimbing. He soon switched his attention to rallying, though, and, in 1998, won the Norwegian title, but, more importantly, badgered Ford boss Malcolm Wilson into giving him a test. Wilson was impressed enough to hand Solberg a drive in 1999. In 2000 a major wrangle mid-season resulted in a surprise switch to Subaru for the final quarter of the year. He's been its blue-eyed boy ever since.

DOB: 18/11/1974
MARITAL STATUS: Married, with one son
LIVES: Spydeberg,
TEAM: Subaru
CO-DRIVER: Phil Mills
THE STATS (to end of 2003)
WRC DEBUT: Sweden 1998
Rally GB 2002
2003: World Rally Champion
2002: Second in WRC, scoring first win on Rally GB
2001: Second in Greece, finishing 10th in WRC points
2000: Fourth in New Zealand, 10th in WRC standings
1999: Ninth on Rally GB
1998: 14th in Sweden on WRC debut

Mikko HirvonenYoung man in a hurry

The man

Mikko is just a regular guy. He likes listening to Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and Offspring in his spare time – although he admits he doesn't have too much of that these days! He has a dog called Piku. He likes to eat out with his friends, or spend time in the sauna. He's also a trained mechanic and likes to tinker with old cars. A regular guy - except he drives World Rally Cars for a living… very quickly.


The driver
Mikko hails from the same management company that had Tommi Makinen on its books – and still runs a host of other Finnish drivers – so he's in good company. He only started rallying in 1998, so he has a lot to learn. His performance on the 2003 Monte Carlo Rally was an impressive debut – until he rolled. Spent most of 2003 under orders to finish rallies and learn. He did just that, and is now ready to reap his rewards.
The prospects
Made the step up into the big league for 2004, when he was chosen to replace the unwell Richard Burns in the Subaru line-up. He's still inexperienced, but he's done enough now to show what he can really do. He will make mistakes, but we reckon he will also show real speed and talent.
The history
Mikko began rallying in an Opel Kadett in 1998. In 2000 he entered the first ever Junior Finnish Championship in an Opel Astra and finished a creditable sixth. The following year Mikko set his sights on the 2001 Finnish Championship. He led the championship until the last day of the last round when he hit a rock, relegating him to second. In 2002 he again contested the Finnish Championship, claiming the Formula 2 title in a Golf Kit Car, and boosted his experience with appearances in Italy, France on the WRC, before signing up for a full WRC programme in 2003 with a works-run Ford Focus RS WRC02.

DOB: 31/07/1980
LIVES: Kannonkoski, Finland
TEAM: Subaru
CO-DRIVER: Jarmo Lehtinen

THE STATS (to end of 2003)

WRC DEBUT: Finland 2002


2003: Contests first full
WRC season with Ford

2002: Wins Finnish F2 title
2003: Finishes second in Finnish Rally Championship