28 July 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Solberg and Polo GTI R5 storm 2020 Rally di Roma Capitale on full asphalt debut

2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally di Roma Capitale: Solberg

Oliver Solberg celebrated his FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) return at the 2020 Rally di Roma Capitale (24-26 July) by driving his PA Racing-backed Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to third place. The 18-year-old’s full asphalt debut saw him run in third from the fifth stage until the end of the 123-mile event.

‘For me, this is a little bit like winning,’ said the son of triple World Rally Champion (WRC) Petter Solberg. ‘Before the start, I didn’t know anything about where my speed would be. I drove Rallye Monte-Carlo which is a little bit of a tarmac rally, but the set-up for the car is quite different.

‘Competition is tough’
‘People were asking me before I started where I could finish, and I hoped to be in the top 10. The competition here is tough, there are a lot of drivers who have been driving on asphalt for all of their careers. When I posted a second fastest time on SS5, it was fantastic,’ the young driver continued. Oliver is no stranger to strong performances on the European Rally Championship – he became the youngest-ever winner of an ERC round after victory at the 2019 Rally Liepāja, aged 17.

‘The first day was a really tough one: the roads were so twisty, so technical and complicated – but it was actually Sunday where I was thinking it would be more difficult. On Sunday the roads were faster and wider, which meant there were different lines to take into the corners.’ Solberg Junior also lost his glasses and hit a rock on SS2, which cost him some time. But he made up for it during SS10, where he was fastest through before the rally leaders cars’ arrived.  

2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally di Roma Capitale: Solberg

‘So much fun’
Oliver praised the work of his father in helping him fine-tune his pacenotes. ‘Dad was helping Aaron (Johnston, co-driver) and me with the notes while we were watching the onboards. That gave me good confidence, and when we started on Sunday I was really enjoying it. I drove the same tyres for two loops to give me more experience of how it feels to have the car moving around beneath me when the tyres are wearing more; honestly, I really, really enjoyed it. It was so much fun,’ Oliver enthused.

‘I know I have a lot more to learn, but I can really say now that I love driving on asphalt. I understand some of how the car and tyre combination works – it’s so different to gravel, but it’s very cool. I have to say a big thanks to the whole team at PA Racing and, of course, to Pirelli – having Terenzio (Testoni, head of rally and off-road competitions) helping me this weekend has been fantastic.’

2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally di Roma Capitale: Basso

Away from Solberg’s performance, a total of eight other Polo GTI R5s contested the Rome event, which re-started the international rallying calendar following the COVID-19 pandemic. The Polo of Giandomenico Basso and Lorenzo Granai kicked off the rally with the fastest time on the qualifying stage, the 2019 event winners completing the 2.6-mile Fumone stage in 2m11.350s. The Italian pair went on to finish second, ahead of Solberg, just behind the Russian duo of Alexey Lukyanuk and Dmitry Eremeev in their Citroën C3 R5.

2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally di Roma Capitale: Herczig

Other Polo GTI R5 finishers included the ninth-placed Volkswagen of Rudy Michelini and Michele Perna, the VW of Marco Signor and Francesco Pezzoli that crossed the line in 14th position, and the Fabio Angelucci and Massimo Cambria car which came home 24th. The BRR-prepared Polo of Norbert Herczig and Ramon Ferencz finished 53rd, while both the rallying VWs of Fabian Kreim/Frank Christian and Enrico Brazzoli/Maurizio Barone retired. 

[Images: Oliver Solberg, ERC, and Josef Petru (Herczig)]

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