Oliver shows stunning pace on Sardinian debut
19-year-old Oliver Solberg demonstrates exceptional speed on tough Sardinian roads
Monster Energy driver is seventh fastest overall on Rally Italia’s toughest stage
The Swede was the class of the WRC3 field
“We came to learn and I think we learned quickly!"
Teenage Swede Oliver Solberg stunned the rally world with another sublime performance on his Rally Italia-Sardegna debut this weekend. On just his sixth World Rally Championship start ever, the Monster Energy-backed ŠKODA driver set an incredible seventh fastest time on the opening stage of the Alghero-based event on Friday.
According to the world’s rallying elite, the 12-kilometre Tempio Pausania stage was the most complicated and technically challenging road on the route. Across his first 12 competitive kilometres on Sardinia, Oliver was more than a second per kilometre faster than his nearest rival in the WRC3 category.
He was seventh fastest overall, beating five competitors with stronger WRC cars.
The #32 Fabia Rally2 evo was in the top 10 overall for all but two stages before a puncture cost him time late on Saturday.
Oliver’s astonishing run – and his hopes of a second consecutive top-10 result in the WRC – came to an end when he overshot a corner on the last stage of day two. The ŠKODA’s front wheels dropped into a ditch and made reversing impossible. Oliver’s stunning run was done.
He returned for the final day, gathering more experience of one of the most specialised rounds of the series.
“Of course I’m disappointed when I think back to the result we could have made here,” said Oliver.
“If I’d braked one second earlier, we would have been eighth overall with another WRC 3 win. But there’s no point to think like this. We came here to Sardinia for the first time to understand what is the road like and to get some experience of events and surfaces like this one. I never drove rough rallies before and it’s really a different way of driving to places like Estonia (the previous WRC round where Oliver won his class and finished ninth overall).
“The first stage was really cool. It was a big, big challenge: so narrow, so technical, twisty and with mud in places, lots of grip level changes. I was really happy with this one. It’s sometimes hard to find a flow and rhythm in stages like this, but I did that and really went with it.
“After that we had some small things, a spin here, then some small issues and then the puncture on Saturday. It’s frustrating, we’d just got back to the lead when I braked just a second too late.
“Honestly, I thought we’d drop a few seconds, take reverse and carry on. I couldn’t believe it when it was all over. So tough. But OK, this is the sport sometimes.
“Sunday was a day for experience and driving those stages, the ones by the beach, was incredible. These are the roads I watched for so many years on the television. To be here and doing this is special – but they were so tricky and so narrow!
“Overall, this is positive. We came to learn and I think we learned quickly!”