Saturday | 21 Mar 2020

Guest column: Oliver Solberg

There’s something special about hearing your name called out. And having my name called out in Guanajuato last week was incredible. OK, not too many people went crazy about ‘Oliver’ but when the guy said ‘Solberg’ the cheer was so loud.

Maybe this had something to do with my dad…

I was four-and-a-half when papa won Rally Mexico in 2005, I don’t think I remember it. It’s hard… you watch many of these things on the video and then you start thinking do I remember that or is it because of the TV. I don’t know.

What I do know is that Mexico was always one of his favourites. He told me the stories about the people, the places – places like the amazing Guanajuato start – and the stages. And he was right about all of them. They were all completely fantastic.

I guess you know by now, Mexico was a tough one for Aaron (co-driver Johnston) and me in our Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. We made a good start, winning both the fan stages in Guanajuato on Thursday night (that was so much fun, so slippery, but the noise from the people was coming into the car. In. To. The. Car. Incredible!)

Video: Rally Guanajuato Mexico WRC 3 highlights

But on the first stage on Friday, El Chocolate, we hit a rock and it damaged the bottom of the engine. When we watched the onboard back, the rock was in the line and I couldn’t see it until the last moment.

You hear drivers saying these things and you think: “Maybe there would be time to move…”

There wasn’t. We were going quickly and if you try to dodge these things, it can be more serious to make you go off the road.

The rule is to try to take the hit down the middle of the car where you have big protection from the sump guard. I managed to do that, but it was a big hit. Immediately I knew we had a problem with the oil coming from the engine and we stopped.

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I was so disappointed. Everybody had warned me about the rocks, but I couldn’t do anything for it.

We were trying to change the engine in the car and then maybe enter the national rally on Saturday, but then things changed a little bit and we started to look to come home instead.

Coronavirus changed the event and it looks like it will change things a little bit for a while. That’s tough. We all want to go rallying. I want to drive and lots of people want to come and look at the cars, but now we have to step back and we have to understand there is something more important in the world.

I’m sending a big amount of love to all the health workers and everybody working to fix things right now. Thank you!