Mon 21 Feb 2022

Home fixture stirs Solberg’s emotions

Oliver Solberg has talked of the emotions behind tackling his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Sweden for the first time as a top-tier driver.

The Hyundai Motorsport pilot lives near Torsby, the former home of Rally Sweden, and close to the Norwegian border. He has a Swedish mother in former PWRC challenger Pernilla and Norwegian father in triple FIA world champion Petter.

He lines up for round two of the 2022 campaign at Rally Sweden (24 - 27 February) in a hybrid-powered i20 N. His only previous Swedish start was two years ago when he finished fifth in WRC3.

“Of course, I am Swedish and Norwegian,” said Solberg. “But this is my home round of the championship and it will be very emotional to go there and drive this week.

“I talked a lot about dreaming of these moments – like when I competed with Papa for the first time in the WRC in Rally GB [2019] and then driving [Arctic Rally] Finland in a World Rally Car last year.

“But this is the one. You can imagine, this is the one I dream for my whole life. To go to my home rally as a factory driver, it’s something very special.

“Sure, it would have been maybe even better if the event was still based in Torsby – close to my home and where my family team is from – but the main thing is to make sure Sweden is secure and having good conditions. I think we have that, for sure, this week.”

This year’s event has moved 700km north to the Västerbotten region, with Umeå as the host city. Conditions are understood to be perfect for a winter rally with temperatures plunging to almost -20°C this week and plenty of snow and ice covering the stages.

Solberg was the talk of last year’s winter fixture at Arctic Rally Finland, his debut in a top-level World Rally Car. He missed sixth overall by just 1.2sec to Takamoto Katsuta after a final-stage spin in a Hyundai i20.

The 20-year-old can’t wait to be back on the WRC’s winter round.

“Snow and ice is my favourite surface as well so it will be a very special rally,” he said. “You have to be quite aggressive with your driving style, keeping the front of the car in the lines but pushing the rear.

“It will be new for everybody, so preparations are more equal and this gives me a good opportunity to have a strong weekend. Rally Sweden will be a mix of everything: fast and twisty roads, wintry conditions and lots of snow banks.”

Solberg hopes to bounce back from a disappointing opening to the season at Rallye Monte Carlo when he withdrew on medical grounds after fumes leaked into the cockpit.

• Full coverage from Rally Sweden will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

Video: The challenge of Rally Sweden
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