Tuesday 2 March 2021

Solberg has many reasons to smile after a spectacular WRC debut.

PHOTO CREDIT: Oliver Solberg Media
Oliver Solberg has many reasons to smile after delivering an outstanding performance at the Arctic Rally Finland over the weekend. 

Despite a seventh-place finish on debut, the 19-year-old Swede's performance on board the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC was nothing short of spectacular. Mistakes are to be expected from rookies, but Oliver handled it like a seasoned professional. 

With one stage to go on Sunday afternoon, he was on course for a top-three finish in the Wolf Power Stage, however, it was not to be as he spun in the final corner, which meant he lost sixth-place in the overall rankings by 1.2 seconds. 

Directly after the rally, Solberg was quick to thank Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Andrea Adamo for the opportunity to make the step up to the WRC’s top flight.

"I don’t think I actually have the words to tell you how this feels," Oliver Solberg said. "It’s really unbelievable and the biggest thing I did in my career. To Andrea, to everybody in Hyundai Motorsport, and to the 2C [Comp├ętition] team I just want to say thank you. 

"When Andrea talked about me doing this event, I was so excited. But at the same time, I was wondering a little bit in my mind, what will happen? How will it be?"

With a rallying career that started in 2017 (4-years-ago), Oliver answered all these questions and then some with his dynamite focus and quite astonishing speed. Having completed a couple of runs in the shakedown session to build his understanding of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, he was bang on the pace from the get-go and was fourth fastest overall as early as the second stage. A day later, on Saturday morning, he went one better and bagged a top-three stage time. 

"I knew it would be complicated to understand the aero," he said. "But I was quite confident I would be happy at this speed. I didn’t expect to make these sort of times quite so early in the rally. It was just so much fun."

PHOTO CREDIT: Oliver Solberg Media.
Solberg reveals that he was told by Andrea Adamo (team principal) that he had no pressure and had to make sure he was smiling. "I am smiling more than I ever did before now," he says.

Having raced an R5 rally car for 3 years, the Swede was quite impressed by the overall grip and power of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. 

"The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC was fantastic to drive, so much grip, so much power, and just so incredible to drive. When I was in the car and really in the middle of the event, I was just driving and not thinking so much to what everything really meant," he said. "But when I was between the stages and we were stopping behind [S├ębastien] Ogier to change wheels and work on the car before the stage, I did stop a little bit and think: “Wow! This is just incredible – I’m here and I’m fighting with the world champion!"

"There were a couple of times when I was a little bit frustrated, like in the last stage. I made a spin near the finish and that cost me a sixth place. Sixth would have been nice, but I will take this result – in the top five on six stages out of 10. This is so much more than I could have dreamed of. It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable."

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Andrea Adamo has been left satisfied with his rookie's incredible progression throughout the event.

"I guess he enjoyed it a lot," Adamo said. "I think he has had an amazing rally, much better than what everyone expected."

"I think he did what we asked him to do – to enjoy, to enjoy it in the end. But in the end, I think he enjoyed to spin a bit in the snow. It’s good you know, I think he gave us all a breath of fresh air that is needed in the WRC world. So it’s good."

There is no doubt that Oliver will return to the World Rally Championship in the not too distant future, it's just a matter of which manufacturer will sign him up. 

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