Oliver Solberg heads to Rally Liepāja next week (14-16 August) for the latest chapter of his FIA European Rally Championship adventure.
After making history on the high-speed Latvian event last season as the ERC’s youngest winner aged 17 years, eight months and three days, Solberg and co-driver Aaron Johnston will return to the Baltics on a high following victory in the ERC1 Junior category in third overall on Rally di Roma Capitale last month.
The outing was part of a selected ERC campaign in a Pirelli-equipped Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 prior to the resumption of Solberg’s FIA World Rally Championship bid in the autumn.
Objectives clear for teenage talent “The emotions of winning [Rally Liepāja last year] are still really high for me and it will be nice to go back there and maybe make some more history,” said Solberg. “But that’s the story from yesterday. Going to Liepajā this time is about the next part of the story – it’s about taking more points from the European championship and, of course, preparing for the next World Rally Championship round in Estonia.”
Confidence with Solberg following starring Roma role Solberg holds a 10-point advantage over Simone Tempestini in the ERC1 Junior title battle following his success on the all-asphalt Rally di Roma Capitale. “Rome was really good fun,” said Solberg. “Honestly, this result was giving me some good confidence as well. There were a lot of R5 cars there and to take this third place against so many really fast local guys and so many ERC drivers was fantastic for me.”
Experience important but winning Rally Liepāja again does matter
Solberg, the son of 2003 World Rally champion Petter Solberg, led last year’s Rally Liepāja from start to finish, posting the fastest time on 10 of the 13 stages. Heading the then reigning ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk by 9.7 seconds at the end of the first leg, Solberg simply increased his advantage on the final day of competition and finished up 22.7 seconds clear of the Russian.
“Last year was one of my first times in four-wheel drive on gravel so I didn’t really have any expectations, but the speed was really good from the start,” said Solberg. “Rally Liepāja is fast and you have to be very precise with your pacenotes and also very precise with your driving. It looks easy but it’s very difficult.”
With Lukyanuk, the ERC leader following his victory in Rome, also entered for Rally Liepāja, Solberg expects a close battle with one of his rallying heroes. “Alexey is one of the fastest R5 guys in the world and the most crazy! For sure it’s going to be fun to battle with him again and I think he wants revenge. I just try to do my best to keep him off. I have to try to win it again this year. It’s going to be an exciting race.”