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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