Teenage rally sensation Oliver Solberg delivered a spellbinding dream drive to seventh place on his debut aboard a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC at Arctic Rally Finland.
 
A final-stage spin meant the 19-year-old missed out on a top-six position by just 1.2 seconds, but the supersonic Swede had still gone above and way beyond what the service park had predicted.  
The Monster Energy driver 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,” said Oliver. “It’s really unbelievable and the biggest thing I did in my career. To Andrea, to everybody in Hyundai Motorsport and to the 2C [Compétition] team I just want to say thank you. We are in the home town of Santa Claus – I think he gave me a fantastic present!
 
“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?”
 
Oliver answered those questions with some emphatic and quite astonishing speed. Having taken a couple of runs at shakedown to build his understanding of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, he was bang on the pace and fourth fastest overall as early as the second stage. First thing Saturday morning, he went one better and bagged a top-three stage time. 
 
“I knew it would be complicated to understand the aero,” said Oliver. “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. Before the rally Andrea was telling me there was no pressure and I had to make sure I was smiling. I am smiling more than I ever did before now.
 
“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. But when I was between the stages and we were stopping behind [Sébastien] 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!”
 
“Of course I understand Séb had a difficult place on the road and that cost him some time on Friday, but it was very cool to be racing with him. He’s a cool guy.
 
“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 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.”
 
In the middle of their celebrations, Oliver was quick to remember a driver close to the heart of the Solberg family.
 
“It was so sad to hear the news that Hannu [Mikkola, 1983 World Rally Champion] had passed away on Saturday,” said Oliver. He was an amazing man – he was a legend for our sport and it makes me proud to make my debut and this result in his home country.”

Adamo was pleased with his protégé’s incredibly rapid progression. 
 
The Italian said: “I guess he enjoyed it a lot. 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.”
 
Oliver’s Arctic Rally Finland stage-by-stage
SS1 Sarriojärvi 1 31.05km (19.29 miles) 
10th fastest; 10th overall
“Fantastic! So incredible to be driving this car. I used the front tyres a little bit too much and there was a small overshoot which cost around 10 seconds.”

SS2 Sarriojärvi 2 31.05km (19.29 miles)
4th fastest; 8th overall
“It was quite incredible in the dark. The car is sliding a lot and all the time you are sideways, you cannot see where you are going – the lights are pointing at the bank! But I loved it, absolutely loved it!”

SS3 Mustalampi 1 24.43km (15.18 miles)
3rd fastest; 8th overall
“The first section of this stage was quite technical and narrow in places. I struggled to find the rhythm straight away, but once it came everything was good.” 

SS4 Kaihuavaara 1 19.91km (12.37 miles)
6th fastest; 7th overall
“I have to be honest and I was a little disappointed here, I couldn’t find so much confidence in the fast sections. The car is totally amazing and it has so much grip from the aero – I just need the experience to use it. I need to be less cautious and more committed.”

SS5 Siikakämä 1 27.68km (17.20 miles)
4th fastest; 6th overall
“That was really a proper stage! A. Proper. Stage. The best from this morning. I was just loving driving, so fantastic experience. I pushed hard, but also I was still a little bit cautious in places.”

SS6 Mustalampi 2 24.43km (15.18 miles)
5th fastest; 6th overall
“Difficult! I was so sideways all of the time. The surface has changed a little bit since the first pass and it felt sometimes that I was going from one snowbank to the next. For sure, this is the hardest thing I have done in my career so far.”

SS7 Kaihuavaara 2 19.91km (12.37 miles)
9th fastest; 7th overall
“I was stuck in the snowbank for a while. I was angry for this, but I’m still learning all the time and learning so much. I am so focused on this rally and sometimes I am sitting in the car and looking on the times and I see whom I’m fighting with and the guys around me and it’s a little bit incredible!”

SS8 Siikakämä 2 27.68km (17.20 miles)
5th fastest; 6th overall
“The same like Friday night, tricky with the car sliding a lot. It didn’t help that I didn’t take my glasses on this stage – maybe it was helping me to drive quicker! Seriously though, an incredible day and a day when I was understanding more from the fantastic Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.”

SS9 Aittajärvi 1 22.47km (13.96 miles)
4th fastest; 6th overall
“I was careful in the first section, a little bit tense, but once I relaxed in the middle of the stage I really for the feeling again. I’m quite sad I only have one more [stage] to drive in this amazing Hyundai.”

SS10 Aittajärvi 2 22.47km (13.96 miles)
9th fastest; 7th overall
“I wanted to have one last push on this rally and I tried. I’m sorry for this spin, but what an amazing event. I will never forget this one.”

Oliver Solberg in numbers:
Rallies started: 41
Rallies won: 9
ERC rounds started: 6
ERC rounds won: 2
ERC podiums: 3
WRC rounds started: 9
WRC debut: Wales Rally GB (2019)
Number of titles won: 9

Kuva ja teksti: Oliver Solberg media office

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