OLIVER SOLBERG SECURES SECOND U.S. WIN AT SUSQUEHANNOCK TRAIL RALLY
When you has it, you has it.
I can just imagine what it is like to manage a 17 year old hot head driving a Subaru that goes like the proverbial clappers. That will be bad enough without him having won a previous event, after which he got elevated out of the shadow of his dad, Petter Solberg.
On the Susquehannock Trail that was moved from its usual June timing to a new date in mid-September, Oliver wanted to prove that his previous win was no fluke.
As was expected cool and damp weather conditions made for a very different rally from previous years. Rain during the week turned the service area into ankle-deep mud and left the narrow, fast Pennsylvania roads slick and more dangerous than usual.
Now if these were not heartstopping conditions for any team manager, then I don’t know. Talent is one thing, snotty conditions with a 17 year old in a red hot Subaru in muddy conditions – now that is something else.
“Luckily” would be the wrong word to use, as luck – although it plays a definite role in rallies – was overshadowed by talent in this case. Oliver Solberg kept his cool and gave reigning champion David Higgins a little bit to think about.
Higgins who clinched the 2019 title with his second place on the event- used the “everything to lose” and “driving a calculated rally” spin to soften the blow – but all he did was to place some serious pressure on himself for the next event – the Lake Superior Performance Rally to be held on 18/19 October 2019.
If young Solberg manages to keep it together and pull off his third overall victory in the 2019 US Rally series (ARA) will crown a new champion next year.
Subaru Motorsports USA dominated a muddy and treacherous Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, with 17 year old Oliver Solberg going wire-to-wire to win his second event of the American Rally Association (ARA) season in only his first full season of rally. Teammate and ARA championship leader David Higgins drove to a calculated second-place finish in pursuit of his tenth U.S. rally title. Solberg and Higgins swept all 15 stage wins and have now combined to win five of the last six ARA national events in their Subaru WRX STI rally cars.
Oliver Solberg – still a few days shy of his eighteenth birthday – and returning co-driver Aaron Johnston attacked early on Friday in their #70 WRX STI, winning the first two stages to build a quick lead over Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew. Solberg would ultimately take eight of the first day’s stages to Higgins’ two as the veteran pursued a conservative strategy to protect his championship hopes.
Saturday’s stages continued the story of the event with more damp, foggy conditions and a continued push from Solberg and Johnston for stage wins. The pair would again take the first two stages of the day before Higgins and Drew struck back with a win on Stage 13.
A broken axle briefly left Solberg with only front-wheel drive on Stage 14, but he was able to complete the stage and return to service with most of his lead intact.
After repairs, Solberg closed out the weekend with a win on the rally’s final stage to take the overall victory.
Higgins brought his WRX STI home in second, with the Ford of third-place finisher Barry McKenna more than twelve minutes further back. This proves the pace set by the two leaders.
“Fantastic, finally another win since Olympus!” Solberg said after the rally. “I knew the conditions were going to be difficult so my goal was just to push hard and win as many stages as possible. It’s been a long couple of rallies but the team has done a fantastic job.”
“This weekend was very much a championship drive for us,” said Higgins. “Oliver had good pace and we knew we had a chance to lock up enough points to secure the title this weekend so made the choice to drive safely and get the job done. Now we can relax and go flat out at the last event next month, try to end the season on a high note.”
Well lets see if his relaxing can reel Oliver in.
As we said; David Higgins and Oliver Solberg will go head-to-head in the final round of the ARA season at Lake Superior Performance Rally, to be held October 18-19 in Houghton, Michigan.