21 July 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Solberg and slew of Polo GTI R5s to take tarmac test at Rally di Roma Capitale

Polo GTI R5 pilot and young rallying superstar Oliver Solberg will make his full asphalt debut at the 2020 Rally di Roma Capitale event, over the weekend of 24-26 July. Winner of Rally Sweden Lockdown and son of ex-world champ Petter, Solberg Junior is a newcomer to tarmac stages, even though his Monster Energy-liveried Polo GTI R5 completed the 2020 Rallye Monte-Carlo, some stages of which are on asphalt.

But the eighteen-year-old has an ace up his sleeve: in 2018 the young driver sat alongside nine times world rally champion Sébastien Loeb to learn the ropes on tarmac. ‘To drive on tarmac is really different to the gravel or the snow,’ said Solberg, who will drive a PA Racing Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 on the opening round of this year’s FIA European Rally Championship. ‘OK, I did some dry stages in Monte-Carlo this year, but this is nothing to compare. For Rome, the set-up from the car will be stiffer, completely different.’

‘The time with Sébastien taught me so much. I was so lucky to spend this time with him and sitting in the car and watching what he was doing made things much clearer. He showed me lots about weight transfer, braking, all of these things which are crucial for getting the car into the corner and through the corner without sliding. On gravel, you slide the car more, but on tarmac, when you are sliding, you can hear you are killing the tyres and taking away the speed. This is what I have to remember when I am getting into the car in Rome.’

Competitive debut
Solberg and Italy have a good relationship. In 2017, shortly after his sixteenth birthday, he made his competitive debut in a World Rally Car at the Bettega Memorial Rallysprint in Bologna. Even though he had never driven a Ford Fiesta RS WRC before, the young Norwegian finished second overall, beating M-Sport Ford World Rally Team factory driver Teemu Suninen and only losing to Toyota Gazoo Racing star Kalle Rovanperä.

‘That was a fantastic event,’ he said. ‘I was driving with PA Racing then and it’s nice to be back with these guys again. They have lots of experience with the car and the rally, so we are really in a good place with them.’ PA Racing sports director Matteo Bottacin said he was delighted to see Oliver back in the team. ‘Oliver is one of the most promising young people in the world. I am sure that at the Rally in Rome, with the support of Pirelli and Volkswagen Motorsport, with Oliver we can get a good result. We are very happy to work with Oliver again,’ Bottacin said.

‘Smooth and progressive’
With the second half of the World Rally Championship season potentially featuring three asphalt events, Solberg wants to take as much tarmac experience as possible away from the Italian sojourn. ‘I want to learn as much as I can. My style of driving is quite smooth and progressive so I’m hoping I can find a way to drive on tarmac quickly. I will do some testing before the event and then work with PA Racing to make sure I understand everything from the car side. Co-driver Aaron Johnston and I will be watching a lot of onboards to understand what the stages are like. I have to say a big thank you to everybody from the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) and Eurosport for helping make this event happen for me,’ Solberg said.

As well as Solberg’s Polo GTI R5, reigning FIA RGT champion Enrico Brazzoli will also be lining up at the start in Rome, making his 2020 ERC debut. Also in a PA Racing-prepared Volkswagen, Brazolli and co-driver Maurizio Barone’s car will be backed by Allianz. ‘It’s great to go back to racing, we can’t wait, and it’s nice to do it on Italian roads with the Polo GTI R5 that Alessandro Perico’s PA Racing has made available to us,’ said Brazzoli.

In total, nine Polo GTI R5s will be in action on the 2020 Rally di Roma Capitale, including the car of three-time German rally champions Fabian Kreim and Frank Christian, and the MOL Racing Team machine of Norbert Herczig and Ramón Ferencz. The Italian event starts with a qualifying stage on Friday, 24 July. The competitors will take part in a parade through Rome before all the crews embark on 18 stages (128 competitive miles) over the next two days.

[Images: Oliver Solberg, fiaerc.com, and Volkswagen Motorsport]

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