Former world rally champion Petter Solberg is back from the wilderness, and he starts Rally New Zealand on Friday once again among the favourites.
The Norwegian, now 37, won the world title in 2003 with Subaru and three times finished runner-up with the same team.
In those days Solberg was a notably cheerful fellow, always ready with a smile and a chirpy comment during rallies.
But Subaru became uncompetitive and at the end of 2008 pulled out of the world championship. Solberg managed to set up his own team and for three years competed with Citroens that were not as fast as the factory team's cars.
His frustration was obvious - sometimes painfully so - in television interviews at the end of rally stages.
Now Solberg is part of the Ford factory team and he is fast again. So far this year he was won more stages than any other driver.
"It was a tough time you know," Solberg said of the last few seasons. "I've been doing driving my whole life and I know what the car should do and I know what things to do.
"When a lot is missing you get frustrated. You want to win, you want to fight in the top so yes it was a very hard time. But now I'm very happy."
Solberg proved his speed and his determination in the most recent rally, the tough Acropolis event in Greece. On the final day he was in second, just a few seconds behind the great Sebastien Loeb, but in his fired-up quest for victory he made a small mistake and his Ford Fiesta was out of the rally.
"We were very fast in the Acropolis Rally, and very fast in the last few rallies also," he said. "I wanted so much to win in Greece but I pushed maybe half a percent too much and I managed to take the wheel off.
"But I'm back in business to try to fight for wins again after many years and maybe I'm pushing a little too much. Sometimes just wait a little bit, I think.
"But I'm very happy with the speed and very happy with the car. You really have to be at the top fighting for victory, that's your job when you are in a factory team. That's what I want!"
Solberg is fourth in the championship, losing points with his crash in Greece. Earlier he had three times finished third.
He seems puzzled when asked about his interests outside motorsport.
"For me it's all about cars anyway," he said. "For my whole life I haven't done anything else.
"Now I'm following my son Oliver, driving cross-kart. He is driving a lot in the Norwegian and Swedish championship. For me it's following Oliver, training, driving quad bikes, driving snow scooters, driving cars on the ice in winter.
"We are doing a lot of things but I am doing things that will help me go faster."
- © Fairfax NZ News