After winning four rallies for Subaru and emerging victorious from a four-way title battle to claim his first WRC crown, Petter Solberg was named International Rally Driver of the Year.

After winning four rallies for Subaru and emerging victorious from a four-way title battle to claim his first WRC crown, Petter Solberg was named International Rally Driver of the Year.


The charismatic young Norwegian (whose previous successes included winning his country’s Disco Dancing crown) showed his mettle in Corsica, where he recovered from a massive shakedown crash, which nearly wrote off his car, to take victory. He eventually clinched the title with a calculated victory on the final round, the British Rally.


Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills received the Autosport award from their recently-retired team-mate Tommi Makinen.


Asked about his prospects for the 2004 season, Solberg said: "We need to improve everywhere. The team needs to speed up!"


Citroën’s Xsara was a frontrunner for much of the 2003 season and in the hands of Sébastien Loeb, Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae gave Peugeot, Subaru and Ford stiff competition.


The French team, which surprised many by winning the manufacturers' title in only its first full year of competition, received Autosport’s Rally Car of the Year award at the weekend.


The past season was expected to be a year of development for a team that was still relatively unfamiliar with gravel rallying. Yet the Xsara proved to be arguably the most versatile car in 2003.


It retained its traditional supremacy on asphalt (Loeb won in Monte Carlo, Germany and San Remo), was tougher than most on the slow and rocky gravel events (winning in Turkey with Carlos Sainz), and even rattled cages on fast gravel, most notably in Loeb's fine drive to second in Australia.


Tom Wheatcroft presented the award to Citroen sporting manager Francois Chatriot, who commented: "This car can still improve. It's going to be much tougher next year."

Original article from Car