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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