The youngest winner of an FIA European Rally Championship event will contest the opening round of the 2020 ERC, the world’s oldest international rally series, later this month. Oliver Solberg, who made history when he won the ERC-counting Rally Liepāja last season aged 17 years, eight months and three days, will make his debut on Rally di Roma Capitale from 24-26 July, which marks the resumption of FIA international-level rallying as certain restrictions, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, ease in some countries.
Solberg, the son of 2003 World Rally champion Petter Solberg, will drive a Pirelli-equipped Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 run by Alessandro Perico’s PA Racing team from Italy. Aaron Johnston will co-drive.
Tarmac turn for rising star
The asphalt-only contest offers an opportunity for Solberg, now 18, to build his experience of Tarmac driving in Rally2 machinery. But with no knowledge of Rally di Roma Capitale to call on, Solberg’s focus is on reaching the finish following almost 200 kilometres of stage action south-east of the Italian capital.
“I did Rallye Monte-Carlo in January but Rome should be the first dry Tarmac rally with the Polo,” said the Norway-born Swede. “But I’ve never seen the roads so it will be interesting. I will do some testing before the event, just to get a little back into rallying again and to get properly prepared for Tarmac.
I’m just trying to learn all the time, but I think I’m quite a good and smooth driver on Tarmac so I hope I will get to terms with it quite quick. To get some experience, to come through and get to the finish is the target.”
City tour a “cool” opportunity
Prior to the opening special stage on Saturday 25 July, Solberg will join his ERC rivals for a motorised tour of central Rome the previous afternoon at the wheel of his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. With the route passing by a number of Rome’s historic buildings and landmarks, it’s a prospect that Solberg is relishing.
“I’ve seen some videos of the parade and it looks fantastic when they drive through the city with their rally cars,” he said. “It’s strange to see but it’s cool that the organisers can make it happen.”