History repeats itself for Oliver in Latvia
Back-to-back Rally Liepāja wins means more ERC history for Oliver Solberg
Eighteen-year-old leads ERC and ERC1 Junior after second successive Latvian win
Liepāja triumph offers the perfect warm up for a WRC return at Rally Estonia next month
Oliver Solberg re-wrote world motorsport history last year, becoming the youngest driver ever to win an FIA-sanctioned rally when he topped the Liepāja podium.
In Latvia today (Sunday), he wrote yet more history by becoming the youngest driver to score back-to-back wins on an FIA-sanctioned event. What’s more, his start-to-finish Rally Liepāja win (and second European Rally Championship podium in as many events) moves him to the top of the ERC table.
Oliver and co-driver Aaron Johnston were on blistering form from the start of Saturday’s loop of stages around Talsi.
The Monster Energy driver led from the very first test – despite dropping five seconds when the Volkswagen Polo R5 stalled at the start of SS1.
Fastest time on two of Saturday’s four stages helped Oliver build a lead of 10 seconds at the head of the field. That advantage could have been twice as big had it not been for a late spin.
“That stage was crazy,” smiled Oliver. “I had the spin, but then we had so much dust. It was impossible to know which way we had to go. We were sitting in the car just waiting for the dust to go away so we could know which was the right way. Sitting there waiting for 15 seconds was a crazy feeling.”
Competing on an international gravel rally for the first time since the last World Rally Championship round, Rally México in March, Oliver played himself into the Latvian stages sensibly.
“I didn’t want to take any big risks,” he said. “The stages are fast here in Latvia, but there are some sections which are really loose and slippery. It’s tricky here, you have to be careful in these places.”
Oliver was careful and quick, building his advantage through Sunday morning with two more stage wins. Heading into the final loop, Oliver set about defending his lead, but ultimately ended the event the same way he started it: fastest. Quickest time on the last two tests meant Oliver won a commanding six from 10 stages to take a 20.1-second win from former World Rally Championship event winner, Citroën driver Mads Østberg.
“This has been a really good weekend,” Oliver said. “I was able to control the speed and the pace a little bit – I wasn’t going super-crazy all the time. I was really happy with Rome a few weeks ago. There I took third on my first full Tarmac rally, but coming back to the gravel I really felt at home and I was able to really enjoy myself on these roads.
“It was a great job from Aaron and the whole team. Coming back here has been so cool with the memory of that first big win last year. To do it again and now to lead both ERC and ERC1 Junior is fantastic.”
Catch Eurosport’s wrap of the Rally Liepāja action on Sunday at 2230 (CET). Oliver returns to your television screens on Tuesday night, when he will be the focus of Eurosport’s ERC All Access at 2300 (CET).