Search results for "'solberg'"

10 June 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Oliver Solberg opens the door to victory at Rally Sweden Lockdown

Day-to-day life has changed immeasurably under the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and motorsport has seen a continual cancellation or postponement of events, with calendars notably shortened. No clear indication of when races will restart has left fans and drivers in limbo, but there are signs of a slow resurgence. Oliver Solberg, son of 2003 World Rally Champion Petter, won the maiden Rally Sweden Lockdown event, held in the afternoon of Sunday 7 June.

Co-driven by his mum Pernilla, 18-year-old Solberg Junior placed his Polo GTI R5 first ahead of some of the biggest names in Swedish motorsport at the Torsby-based event, the first real-life outing for the youngster and his VW since Rally Mexico back in March. The Torsby Sprint test – made famous because of its use at the end of Rally Sweden’s Power Stage – event was streamed live by broadcaster SVT1 with additional footage on WRC+.

Stringent regulations
Run under some of the most stringent regulations ever, with social distancing and coronavirus awareness at the forefront of everybody’s minds, the event was praised by officials for getting the sport up and running again. To keep everyone safe, the event was run behind ‘closed doors’ with no spectators permitted.

Young Solberg edged ahead of his former WRC 2 and Asia Pacific Rally Championship-winning cousin Pontus Tidemand by 1.2 seconds over the 2.6km stage, his Monster Energy-backed Polo GTI R5 also beating 2016 World Rallycross champion Mattias Ekström. Pernilla played her part in the victory by calling the pacenotes, the first time the mum-and-son team have competed together.

But, much as Oliver and Pernilla were delighted with their debut victory, they were both even happier to be competing again, and very, very grateful to the organising team who pulled the event together in some of the strangest circumstances in history.

‘A really tight fight’
‘It was a really tight fight at the end,’ said Oliver, ‘but to win is something special for me and my mum. It’s been a long time out of the car and I want to say a very big thanks to everybody who made this happen – the organisers and, of course, SVT for the television coverage. They have done an amazing job. It’s easy to sit at home and think: “I wish we could go rallying again…” but these guys stood up and made it happen. Thank you.

‘To drive behind these Monster Energy colours again was fantastic. It was great fun. The road was pretty rough in the end and that was tricky because we were having to push hard to stay ahead of Pontus. The competition has been amazing and so much fun!’ he exclaimed.

The lockdown event saw Pernilla maintain her outstanding Swedish record of success, having won four from the last five Rally Sweden Historics. ‘This was the first time I co-drove for Oliver, and I have to say, I was very impressed with how he listened and committed to the notes. Like Oliver said, we have to thank so many people for their efforts today. Of course SVT and the organisers, but also all the marshals and the Torsby community for making this happen and pulling this amazing Sunday afternoon off,’ she said.

‘I’m so proud to be Oliver’s mum today. He was fantastic and driving really, really well. ‘Now we want to look forward to the second half of the 2020 rallying season and hope we have more events to come. Rally Sweden Lockdown has been fantastic, but I hope this is the only time we need to run an event like this!”

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28 January 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Solberg and Polo GTI R5 slide into impressive Rallye Monte-Carlo debut



Norwegian up-and-coming rally star Oliver Solberg took on the 2020 Rallye Monte-Carlo in a Polo GTI R5 and although his participation was just to gain experience during his first tarmac event, the son of rallying and rallycross ace Petter Solberg posted hugely impressive times in his Monster Energy-backed Volkswagen.

The 18-year-old is a seasoned Polo GTI R5 helmsman, having contested numerous European Rally Championship events last season. Along with co-driver Aaron Johnston, Solberg took a hat-trick of titles in 2019 (Latvia Rally champion, the Baltic Rally Trophy and an Estonian class win) aboard the Polo GTI R5. The pair also took on Wales Rally GB, their first World Rally Championship (WRC) event.

A measured approach
For the 189-mile Monte test (23-26 January), a measured approach was the order of the day. Safe tyre choices and sensible lines translated into gained knowledge and experience, but there were still respectable pace. The Monster Energy Polo posted a third fastest R5 class time on the second run at the Cubans – Venterol test, but later clipped a kerb with the left-rear wheel, the ever-eager Solberg revelling in his and Johnston’s first running of the legendary event. It was one of the event’s lessons given to the young driver.

‘Even when I hit the kerb, at literally walking speed, I learned so much. I used the handbrake to rotate the car, but on the ice it slid too far. The wheel hit the kerb at a really low speed, but at the wrong angle. We broke a bolt in the suspension and had to stop and make the repair ourselves. I always said I wasn’t coming here for the race, I was coming here to learn and I have learned so much!’ As well as the knowledge the duo took away, they finished 16th in the WRC2 class and 25th overall.

A particular highlight was the stage over the infamous Col de Turini. ‘Like every rally fan, for my whole life I watched cars coming over this incredible mountain road and to be there, to drive through that atmosphere with so many fans was just unbelievable. I’ll never forget it.’

‘Just incredible’
The Norwegian superstar-in-waiting really enjoyed his first Monte, which took place in a range of ever-changing weather conditions. ‘Everything everybody told me about the Monte was true. It is such a difficult rally. So difficult! Everything we did on this event was new. I’ve never competed on tarmac before, everything we had done in the previous years had been getting ready for gravel rallies – which are the ones we will be doing most. We had a test before this event, but when we came to these conditions it was just incredible.

‘Everybody said we would be on the wrong tyres for a lot of the time and this was exactly how it was. We were on the ice tyres for a long time on Saturday morning, doing these huge slides as the studs have no grip on the dry asphalt. All the time I was thinking: “Is this right?” And then you come to the full ice and snow and the tyre is perfect. Then you think: “Yes! This is right!”

‘It was a real compromise of everything, but you have to come here to learn that and if you go to the ditch on the first day then you learn nothing. Sometimes I was maybe wanting to push a little bit harder, but I knew there was too much at risk. The problem is, I can’t wait another 12 months to come back – I want to go and do it all again now.’

Solberg Junior will pilot the Polo GTI R5 on more rallies during 2020, but will also slip behind the wheel of a works Škoda Motorsport-supported Fabia Rally2 evo for three of the season’s rounds. The Norwegian’s Fabia-ulous WRC assault starts at Rally Sweden on 13 February. ‘We will still drive the Polo on some rounds,’ said Solberg, who made his WRC debut at Wales Rally GB in October 2019. ‘The main thing for me now is to try to make experience on as many WRC rounds as possible this year.’

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27 May 2019 ~ 0 Comments

Polo GTI R5 results round-up: Oliver Solberg wins Rally Liepāja

Seventeen-year-old Oliver Solberg made motorsport history over the weekend of 24-26 May, as he and co-driver Aaron Johnston crossed the line first at the 2019 Rally Liepāja in his Bullfrog and Circle K-backed Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. The son of World Rally and World Rallycross champion Petter Solberg became the youngest ever winner in the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC).

The third round of the 2019 ERC season, Solberg and Johnston completed the 128-mile event 22.7 seconds ahead of their nearest rivals, reigning ERC victors Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov of Russia. The Latvian rally was Solberg’s first event with the Polo GTI R5 on gravel and the young Norwegian won a supremely impressive ten stages from a possible 13. ‘This is the best day of my life, absolutely unbelievable,’ Solberg exclaimed.

2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5: Rally Liepaja, Solberg/Johnston

Biggest win of his life
By the end of day one, Solberg and Northern Irish Johnston had built a 9.7-second advantage over their nearest rivals. Only sliding wide in a right-hand junction mid-way through the third stage cost the youngster the chance to dominate every stage. Solberg doubled his lead on day two, and not even rutted roads and the onset of rain derailed him. He sealed the biggest win of his life with the fastest time on the 13th and final stage.

It was the Polo GTI R5’s first ERC win, too, the 270bhp Volkswagen Motorsport customer sports rally machine the very same car Petter Solberg debuted last year. ‘Our car has the chassis number one and last October my father drove it at the Rally Spain for the first time,’ said Solberg. ‘For me it’s really special that he lets me drive it now.’

He continued: ‘This is the biggest moment of my life, the biggest day of my life. Of course, I wanted to be at the front, but this is the European championship and it’s a level up from where I am competing. In the shakedown, I wanted to make some changes to the car and the notes weren’t quite perfect. I pushed in the Qualifying Stage and we came out fastest.

‘So proud’
‘I have to say a big thank you to my team – they made the car so comfortable for me. I had no problems and I was taking the confidence that I could push and push harder. I want to say a big thank you to everybody at the European Rally Championship, too, as I have been made to feel so welcome. And to become the youngest ever winner of an ERC round is unbelievable. I’m so proud to do this. What a day for me and Aaron. Fantastic!’ reported a delight Solberg.

Triple champion Petter Solberg was proud of his son had achieved. ‘I know we keep saying this, but what Oliver’s doing is unbelievable. We didn’t know what to expect from the ERC, but he’s come and won the rally. From the fastest time at the qualifying stage and all the way through the event, he’s controlled everything. He’s also been the calmest guy out of all of us!’

Rally Liepāja also staged the third and fourth rounds of the Latvian Rally Championship. Solberg and Johnston are also competitors in the national series, and were beaten in the third round by Estonians Georg Gross and Raigo Mõlder in their more powerful Ford Fiesta WRC. The fourth round saw the Norwegian-British pair grab victory by 32.5 seconds, which enabled them to build on their lead in the overall championship. Solberg and Johnston also took victory at the previous two Latvian Rally Championship events, the 2019 Rally Alūksne and the 2019 Rally Sarma.

2019 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5: Rally Liepaja, Herczig/Ferencz

Fourteenth and seventeenth
Another pair of Polo GTI R5s competed in the 2019 Rally Liepāja. The Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR) Polo of Norbert Herczig and Ramon Ferencz started the Latvian event first and acted as a ‘sweeper’ on the stages, only achieving 14th in the final results. Another BRR Polo driven by Albert von Thurn and Taxis and Bernhard Ettel enjoyed a solid run and finished 17th.

[Images: Herczig car – Alexandre Guillaumot]

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21 September 2018 ~ 0 Comments

WRC comeback: Petter Solberg to pilot Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 at Rally Spain

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

After the naming of Eric Camilli as the first Polo GTI R5 driver for the car’s sole official works outing at Rally Spain, former World Rally Championship (WRC) winner Petter Solberg has been revealed as the brand-new motorsport Polo’s second pilot for the Catalonian event.

Perhaps not a total surprise, Norwegian Solberg has enjoyed links with Volkswagen Motorsport since 2017 when the Hanover-based outfit agreed to lend support to his PSRX Volkswagen Sweden squad which competes in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. A winning team, PSRX Volkswagen Sweden has been crowned team champion again in 2018, with Solberg’s co-driver Johan Kristoffersson taking the individual spoils once again, after last year’s success.

2003 world rally champion
The Rally Spain was Solberg’s last full WRC outing, and he will drive the event with co-driver Veronica Engan in the WRC2 class, for which the Polo GTI R5 has been specially designed. Solberg was rally world champion in 2003 before exiting the sport in 2012, and this year’s Rally Spain will play host to three world champions, as Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier will join Solberg and the new customer motorsports Polo on the starting line on 25 October.

‘The opportunity to make a WRC comeback with Volkswagen is a unique one, and I was very happy to accept the offer,’ said Solberg. ‘When I drove the car in January in Sweden, I didn’t want to stop. Everything about the Polo GTI R5 worked from the very beginning. I am really looking forward to the Rally Spain, and to be in the car for the very first time is a real privilege for
me.

‘I always used to like the combination of gravel and asphalt. It will obviously be a special feeling to return to the place I brought the curtain down on my rally career back in 2012. It will be a fantastic reunion with the WRC family, but one with a professional background. I obviously want to get the R5 Polo off to a good start with a good result,’ he continued.

Petter Solberg

‘A true rally hero’
Volkswagen Motorsport Director, Sven Smeets said: ‘Petter is a true rally hero. We have already experienced his passion and professionalism working alongside him in World Rallycross. Petter always gives 110 per cent, and he has tested the Polo GTI R5 and has always been one of our preferred candidates for the debut of our new car. It is fantastic that he will drive the R5 Polo in Spain, and everyone is looking forward to the rally and to working with Petter and his team-mate Eric Camilli.’

Over 14 years between 1998 and 2012, Solberg made 188 WRC appearances. He has driven for teams including Citroën, Ford, Toyota, and perhaps most famously, Subaru, with whom he scored his world championship title in 2003, ahead of rally legends Sébastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz. The last Nordic world rally champion, Solberg drove for his own team from 2009 to 2011, and returned to Ford in 2012 as a works driver.

His stats are impressive, clocking up 52 podium results, with 13 of them being rally wins, alongside 457 stage wins and a total of 852 points. The 2018 Rally Spain is the Norwegian’s first WRC event with Volkswagen. After the switch from WRC to the World Rallycross Championship (WRX), the 43 year-old won the drivers’ title in both 2014 and 2015, with Volkswagen Motorsport and Solberg’s PSRX team partnership arriving at the start of 2017.

Successful from the off, the squad took the team title and was behind the 2017 world champion, Johan Kristoffersson, in its first year. Volkswagen Motorsport is responsible for the development and technical preparation of the two Polo R Supercars (which are ex-Volkswagen Motorsport, WRC-prepared Polos), while PSRX Volkswagen Sweden looks after the logistics, on-site running of the car, and marketing. Solberg meanwhile remains the only driver to have won the drivers’ title in two different FIA world championships.

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29 January 2018 ~ 0 Comments

An icy inquest: Petter Solberg tests 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 in Sweden

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

Volkswagen Motorsport’s new rally weapon, the Polo GTI R5 has taken to the roads again. This time the frozen tracks of Sweden provided the new 272bhp rally machine with a stern test, the car out through its paces by no fewer than three world champions: World Rallycross Polo RX pilot Petter Solberg, 2000 and 2002 title holder Marcus Grönholm and junior and WRC2 champion Pontus Tidemand.

The latest four-wheel drive Polo GTI R5 assessment took place near the town of Kall, north-west of Östersund. Temperatures were as low as -15 degrees Celsius on the 4km-long route. Solberg had Veronica Engan – who usually reads pace notes for his son Oliver – relaying back the route commands.

‘Fantastic to drive’
Solberg was impressed by the new car: ‘It was just fantastic to be back behind the wheel of a rally car again and to help out the Volkswagen family. It was a really fun day. The team has done such a great job and the car is fantastic to drive. I didn’t want to get out at the end of the day!

‘We covered almost 300 kilometres in one day – very different to what I’m used to in the World Rallycross Championship, but I used my extensive rallying experience to work with the engineers on small changes to the car,’ the Norwegian rallycross and rally star added.

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