Solberg chases Latvian hat-trick at Rally Liepāja
Fresh from a stunning maiden win at the Olympus Rally (April 27/28, Washington, USA) Oliver Solberg returns to competition closer to home next week when he tackles Rally Liepāja, the third round of this year’s Latvian Rally Championship.
After two Stateside Subaru Motorsports USA outings (Rally in the 100 Acre Wood, 2nd; Olympus Rally 1st) Oliver swaps the famous blue and yellow Subaru WRX STI to drive his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 again. The car will also have a brand new livery for this event to include new sponsors such as Bullfrog GP.
And he goes to Rally Liepāja in search of a third straight Latvian Rally Championship win.
Rally Liepāja marks the 17-year-old’s debut on a gravel rally with the Polo. In an effort to get up to speed with the car and conditions, he tested the car on Swedish gravel which recently emerged from a blanket of snow following a long Scandinavian winter.
“I like this rally,” said Oliver. “I did it last year in the Peugeot [208 R2], but we had some problems with the engine. The first day is in Talsi and the second around Liepāja, but they are both really different in nature. The first day is quite a loose surface, where you don’t really want to be running so high up on the road and day two is much harder, where you would prefer to be a bit further back!
“What’s crucial on this event is having a car which works well at the exit of the corners – there are some quick sections where you need the car to be picking up and fired out of the bends down the straight.”
Rally Liepāja qualifies as a round of the prestigious FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) as well as the Latvian series where Oliver has a 100 per cent win record, winning two from two so far.
Oliver added: “It’s nice to go to an ERC round and have the chance to measure myself against the other drivers there, but the priority for me is to secure Latvian Rally Championship points. At the start of the year, Latvia and America were the priorities and that doesn’t change.
“We’ve had a really good start, winning two snow rallies (Rally Alūksne and Rallijs Sarma) in the Latvian series and it would be great to try to continue that run into the gravel.
“I have never driven this car (the Polo GTI R5) on gravel in competition before, so it was good to get some kilometres done in the testing. The roads we had in Sweden were all quite technical and twisty while the stages on Rally Liepāja are generally a bit quicker, so we need to be fast learners in the fast sections!”
While victory on America’s most famous rally (Olympus Rally) has delivered Oliver firmly into the motorsporting spotlight, his feet remain firmly on the ground ahead of his next event.
“Like I said, it will be nice to watch the times for the ERC guys, but that’s a different world to America, where there are only a few cars and drivers capable of challenging for the win.
“People have been asking me how I expect to get on against the ERC drivers and I tell them the same thing: I have no idea! It’s my first time in a four-wheel drive car on these kind of gravel roads.
“For me, I just want to good at this!”
Oliver’s two Latvian Rally Championship wins mean he starts round three with a 19-point lead at the top of the table.
Start: May 24
Finish: May 26
Based: Liepāja, Latvia
Competitive distance: 207.98km