Capital performance ensures fine Roman result for Oliver
Oliver storms the Rally di Roma Capitale podium on fantastic full asphalt debut
Pirelli and PA Racing combine to make it a perfect weekend for the 18-year-old
History-maker Oliver enjoys his FIA European Rally Championship return
Oliver Solberg delivered the perfect Tarmac debut with a stunning Rally di Roma Capitale podium at the two-day Italian event, which finished in Fiuggi on Sunday evening.
Coming into the opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship, 18-year-old Oliver had never contested a full-asphalt event, but immediately demonstrated he learns as quickly as he drives. Driving a PA Racing-run Volkswagen Polo R5, the son of triple FIA World Champion Petter Solberg belied his lack of experience on Tarmac to run third from the fifth stage until the end of the event.
Oliver said: “For me, this is a little bit like winning. Before the start, I didn’t know anything about where my speed would be. OK, I drove Rallye Monte-Carlo which is a little bit of a Tarmac rally, but the set-up for the car is quite different.
“Lots of people were asking me before I started, where I could finish and I hoped to be somewhere in the top 10. The competition here is tough, there are a lot of drivers who have been driving on asphalt for all of their careers. When I made a second fastest time [on SS5], it was fantastic.
“The first day was a really tough one, the roads were so twisty, so technical and complicated – but it was actually Sunday where I was thinking it would be more difficult. On Sunday the roads were faster and wider, which meant there were different lines to take into the corners.”
Oliver praised the work of his father in helping him fine-tune his notes. He added: “Dad was really helping Aaron [Johnston, co-driver] and me with the notes while we were watching the onboards. That gave me good confidence and when we started on Sunday I was really enjoying it. I drove the same tyres for two loops to give me more experience of how it feels to have the car moving around beneath me when the tyres are wearing more; honestly, I really, really enjoyed it. It was so much fun.
“I know I have a lot more to learn, but I can really say now that I love driving on asphalt. I understand some of how the car and the tyre works – it’s so different to gravel, but it’s very cool. I have to say a big thanks to the whole team at PA Racing and, of course, to Pirelli – having Terenzio [Testoni, head of rally of off-road competitions] helping me this weekend has been fantastic. I also had a great time listening to the stories from him and papa!”
Oliver is, of course, no stranger to strong performances on the FIA European Rally Championship, becoming the youngest-ever winner of an ERC round with victory at Rally Liepāja, aged 17, last year.