MOTORSPORT NEWS Rally

WALES: SOLBERGS’ SPECIAL PLACE

OLIVER SOLBERG KNEW THIS PLACE. KNEW THESE ROADS. KNEW THESE HILLS. VIRTUALLY.Petter Solberg knows this place. These roads. These hills. Intimately.

Sweet Lamb. Wales. A place so special, its legend has passed from Solberg generation to generation. A country so special, it put Petter on the map and wrote the Solberg name name into World Rally Championship history.

Standing looking out over the mid-Welsh countryside, the moment’s almost seminal for Solberg Jr.

“I can’t believe I’m here,” he says quietly, almost as though he’s trying to reassure himself that he’s not going to wake up any moment now.

“Honestly, I really have dreamed of this time for such a long time. This time, it’s really happening. Wales is such a big deal for us. My father, he told me so, so many stories about the rallies here – I feel like I know these roads already.”

That’s partly because of Petter’s tales and partly because of Oliver’s time on his console.

“I drove Rally GB so many times on the WRC game,” he said. “All the time I came for these stages like Sweet Lamb.

“It’s the names, isn’t it? It’s like Ouninpohja or something like that. Our rally has these big names for the big stages and Sweet Lamb is one of those.”

“It’s so nice to come to a place like this,” said 2003 World Rally Champion Solberg. “Like Oliver said, I told him a lot of stories from here. OK, we were further to the south in Wales when I won my first world championship round in 2002 and then the title in 2003, but Wales is like the home for me.

“My co-driver Phil [Mills], he is coming from just down the road from here. I know this place so well and to bring Oliver here and watch him coming down that famous hill and through the water splash is really quite emotional to see.”

And did the reality live up to the expectation, Oliver?

“Definitely,” he grinned. “The first day was quite dry and we had a lot of dust – that wasn’t so much like the conditions for Rally GB. But when the rain came, it was like being back in the video game again. It’s amazing.”

Oliver and Petter were both driving at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed in England last weekend.