It’s been a big 12 months for Oliver Solberg. He signed for Hyundai Motorsport. He was the talk of Lapland on his World Rally Car debut. He won first time out on Rally di Alba tarmac in a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. And now this.
 
This is the real deal. The big dream. Yes, we know lots of Oliver’s dreams have come true in the last couple of years, but being confirmed as a Hyundai Motorsport driver alongside Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo is very much next level.
 
Twenty-year-old Oliver will share a Rally1 specification car – the Korean manufacturer’s state-of-the-art, new generation hybrid rally car – with Dani Sordo in 2022.
 
Oliver, who will benefit from Dani’s great experience of the WRC through next season, said: “It’s a little bit hard to describe how I am feeling now. I told you a few times that my dream had come true – it was like that when I drove in Arctic [Rally Finland], then in Alba when I was in the World Rally Car on Tarmac first time, but now this…
 
“This really is the dream. Since I can remember this sport is all I ever wanted to do. Nothing else. I am hearing people asking me questions, asking me about what’s happening next year and still I am a little bit pinching myself – it’s me they’re talking to. It’s me this is happening to!
 
“I want to say a very big thank you to Andrea [Adamo, Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal], but also to the whole team. I understand the responsibility here and I will do everything I can to deliver for this fantastic team.
 
“But I also know that rallying is so much about experience. Every kilometre you drive, you are learning and I know I have a lot of kilometres to drive. There’s no way to take a shortcut or to cut a corner in this process of learning and taking experience – I have to do this step-by-step.
 
“To take these steps sharing a car with Dani Sordo is also special for me. I have known Dani and my family has known Dani for a long time – he’s one of the best people [in the WRC] and somebody I can really learn from. But it doesn’t stop there, look at my other team-mates: two of the fastest drivers in the world with Thierry [Neuville] and Ott [Tänak].
 
“The one thing which will be new for all of us next year is the cars we will drive – with the new hybrid Rally1 era coming. So much will change in the way these cars work and are driven next season – there will be a lot of strategy coming in every stage now. 
 
“It’s sure that it’s going to take some time to adapt, for everybody – including all of the teams, this is really something new. But I love the fact that, as a sport, we are taking a big, big step for the future. To be driving a hybrid car in the first ever FIA championship to have all competitors using sustainable fuel is fantastic.  
 
“This opportunity is amazing. I want to start right now. To be moving into the next generation of this sport with a team which won the world championship for the last two years is something… like I said, I’m still pinching myself.
 
“I’m only just 20, so it’s a huge step so early in my career. But it’s one I’m ready for and it’s one I can’t wait to get going with so I can repay people’s belief in me.” 
 
Team Principal Andrea Adamo said: “We are pleased to confirm Dani and Oliver in our third car for next season, alongside Thierry and Ott. We think it’s the best compromise between experience and youth, and the ideal mix for a new era of WRC. 
 
“Not only will Dani drive a selected number of events, but he will also be working with us on events when Oliver steps in. His approach to racing and his extensive experience will be a great asset to our team when our learning curve with new regulations will be high. 
 
“We will have important continuity and mutual trust; it is also good to have new blood like Oliver, alongside the experience that our existing crews will bring. We will undoubtedly have a very strong line-up as we embark on a fresh chapter for Hyundai Motorsport.”
 
Before the end of this year, Oliver will have one more chance to drive the extraordinary current generation i20 Coupe WRC as he makes his debut on an asphalt round of the world championship at RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada Rally de España (Salou, October 14-17).

Oliver’s journey
Monster Energy-backed Oliver used three successive Nordic Crosskart Championship crowns to springboard him into rallying. He was 15. 
 
That was 2017. 
 
Starting out with a Peugeot 208 R2 in the Latvian Championship, Oliver still found time to win the 2018 RallyX Nordic title at the wheel of a 600bhp DS 3 Supercar. He was 16 at the time.
 
He celebrated turning 17 by doing his own deal to drive a Subaru WRX for Subaru Motorsports USA. Second overall on his debut in the 400bhp open class car, he won his second rally – the 2019 Olympus Rally. 
 
A month later and Oliver made history by becoming the youngest ever winner of a round of the FIA European Rally Championship, when he dominated Rally Liepāja in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. Never in the history of the governing body of world motorsport has a driver younger than Oliver won an FIA regional event.
 
In the summer of 2019, Oliver stole the show at Goodwood’s legendary Festival of Speed with a jaw-dropping run up the hill. If you’re not one of the seven million people who have enjoyed that slide at the second right-hander, it’s worth a watch.
 
After an emotional WRC debut at Rally GB – in a team of two Polos shared with his father Petter – Oliver rounded out his time in America with another victory, this time at the Lake Superior Performance Rally.
 
2020 was all about destination World Rally Championship and a deal to drive with ŠKODA Motorsport. The WRC was, of course, forced to take a back seat when COVID-19 arrived. But once the sport was up and running again, Oliver stormed through to the end of the season with a pair of outstanding WRC2 podiums in Estonia and at ACI Rally Monza.
 
A Hyundai Motorsport agreement paved the way for more WRC2 outings and a stellar World Rally Car debut at Arctic Rally Finland. After racing hard against Sébastien Ogier, Oliver missed out on a top-six finish by just 1.2 seconds.
 
Oliver Solberg in numbers:
Rallies started: 49
Rallies won: 9
WRC rounds started: 15
WRC debut: Wales Rally GB (2019)

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