Sunday | 13 Jun 2021

Solberg late addition to Safari line-up

Teenage star Oliver Solberg will make his gravel debut in a World Rally Car at next week’s Safari Rally Kenya (24 - 27 June) as a late update to the entry list.

The 19-year-old was a star performer when he drove a top-level Hyundai i20 for the first time to seventh place at February’s Arctic Rally Finland. The Naivasha-based Safari couldn’t be more different to the deep freeze of the FIA World Rally Championship’s winter round.

Solberg had been expected to drive an i20 WRC at Rally Italia Sardegna earlier this month, only for those plans to be changed after his father, 2003 world champion Petter, tested positive for coronavirus, sending the family into quarantine.

“I know I talk about my dreams a lot,” said an excited Solberg, “but this one really is a dream. I can’t believe it. When Andrea [Hyundai Motorsport team principal Adamo] and Alain [team manager Penasse] first talked about me maybe going out to do the recce on Safari, I was so excited.

Solberg made his World Rally Car debut in the Arctic's snow and ice

“Now I’m going to compete at Safari Rally Kenya. The WRC is full of incredible events in amazing places, but this is such an honour and a privilege to be doing this one.

“The WRC has been waiting for 19 years since the last Safari and to be competing with a factory World Rally Car when the sport goes back to Africa is so special. I’m always excited to be getting in a car to drive, but this is on another level now.”

It is 22 years since Petter Solberg made his World Rally Car gravel debut at the Safari. As a late replacement for the injured Thomas Rådström, he finished fifth in a Ford Focus in 1999.

Adamo insisted there would be no pressure on Solberg – the emphasis is on enjoying driving the car on dirt for the first time.

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“I am really happy that Oliver can finally make his gravel debut with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on gravel at Safari Rally Kenya,” said Adamo.

“We have seen at the Arctic Rally Finland that he can be very fast in the WRC car and I think he already showed what he can do, but most of all we want him to enjoy the Safari and there won’t be any pressure on him.

“I am sure we will see again some nice speed from Oliver and he will have the possibility to learn more about the car.

“I am looking forward to see him in action, we all know he is a very fast driver, who is both passionate and dedicated – I really like his approach to things and I am sure he will be able to impress again.”