Solberg rewrites rally history at Rally Liepāja
Oliver Solberg has made rallying history in Latvia, winning Rally Liepāja after a dominant display which included fastest time on 10 of the 13 stages at the latest round of the FIA European Rally Championship.
The 17-year-old arrived in Liepāja looking to take a third straight Latvian Rally Championship win aboard his Circle K-backed Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. He was interested in the pace of the ERC field, but only in terms of how his own speed was progressing.
Then he won the Qualifying Stage, then he won the opening stage. And the next one. And the one after that.
By the end of a sunny and dusty Saturday, Oliver and his Northern Irish co-driver Aaron Johnston built a 9.7-second advantage over their nearest rival. Only sliding wide in a right-hand junction mid-way through the third stage cost him the chance to dominate every test.
Sunday brought a further eight stages and 106.50km of competition.
Three stages into day two and Oliver had doubled his lead at the top of the table. From then on, it was about delivering a dream. Not even rutted roads and the onset of rain could derail this amazing story. And, naturally, he sealed the biggest win of his young life with fastest time on the 13th and final stage.
Oliver said: “Now I really don’t know what to say. What can I say?
“This is the biggest moment of my life, the biggest day of my life. Honestly, I came here and I wanted to have a look. Of course, I wanted to be at the front, but this is the European championship and it’s a level up from where I am competing.
“In the shakedown, I wanted to make some changes to the car and the notes weren’t quite perfect. I pushed in the Qualifying Stage and we came out fastest.
“I have to say a big thank you to my team – they made the car so comfortable for me. I had no problems at all and all the time I was taking the confidence that I could push and push harder.
“On Saturday it was a little bit difficult sometimes with the dust and we had some dust coming to the [inside of the] car. And today (Sunday) I had to be a little bit careful in the ruts, especially under braking for the slower corners – probably I should have raised the car a little bit for the second loop of stages.
“But, hey, I’m still learning!
“I want to say a big thank you to everybody at the European Rally Championship, I have been made to feel so welcome here. And to become the youngest ever winner of an ERC round is unbelievable for me. I’m so proud to do this. What a day for me and Aaron. Fantastic!”
Triple FIA world champion Petter Solberg – along with Oliver’s mum Pernilla – were two of the proudest people in the world.
Petter said: “I know we keep saying this, but what Oliver’s doing is unbelievable. Like he said, we didn’t know what to expect from these ERC guys, but he’s come and won the rally.
“Winning is fantastic, obviously, but for Pernilla and me, it’s the way he’s won. From the fastest time at the Qualifying Stage all the way through the event, he’s controlled everything and, you know, he’s been the calmest guy out of all of us! He thought so much to the tyres, to the strategy and to what he wanted from this rally and he’s achieved all of those goals and targets. He’s amazing.”
Oliver Solberg’s Rally Liepāja stage analysis:
QS 1st (fastest by 0.580s)
SS1 1st (lead 5.9s)
SS2 1st (lead 8.9s)
SS3 3rd (lead 3.8s) slide wide and overshoot right-hander
SS4 1st (lead 7.4s)
SS5 1st (lead 9.7s)
SS6 1st (lead 10.9s)
SS7 1st (lead 15.5s)
SS8 1st (lead 20.2s)
SS9 2nd (lead 19.1s)
SS10 1st (lead 22.4s)
SS11 1st (lead 22.6s)
SS12 2nd (lead 21.1s)
SS13 1st (won by 22.7s)
Oliver’s 2019 results
Rally Alūksne (January 18/19, Latvia) 1st
Rallijs Sarma (February 9, Latvia) 1st
Rally in 100 Acre Wood (March 15/18, America) 2nd
Olympus Rally (April 27/28, America) 1st
Rally Liepāja (May 25/26, Latvia) 1st