Mon 25 Jul 2022

Solberg: ‘We’re determined to catch up fast’

Oliver Solberg has no doubts his Hyundai Motorsport team will emerge stronger from its current FIA World Rally Championship struggles.

The 20-year-old Swede endured another tough time on his way to 13th place at Rally Estonia this month, but remains encouraged after setting a brace of second fastest times at the Tartu-based event.

Solberg’s hopes of a strong finish were dashed after he hit a rock and broke his i20 N’s power steering in the opening leg. He conceded several minutes wrestling the car through the day’s remaining stages before the team had the opportunity to make repairs.

Like team-mates Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville, Solberg struggled with the car’s balance and handling, which cost vital time on the superfast gravel roads. Those issues, along with reliability problems, have been a recurring theme in a difficult opening half of the season for the Korean manufacturer.

“I know that the factory in [Alzenau] is full of people who are working all the time they have to make the car faster and more reliable,” Solberg stressed.

“We can see that. We can see the speed coming quicker and quicker all of the time. We will get there, that’s absolutely for sure and I don’t question that at all.”

“I think we all know there’s been a hard start to the season for this team, but we also have to remember that this is a team made from world champions. In 2019 and 2020, Hyundai Motorsport was the best in the world and that’s not such a long time ago.

“It’s important we stay positive and push hard towards the future. We started this project a little bit behind, but results like the one Ott managed in Estonia [third] and his win in Italy show that we are in the right direction. And we’re all very determined to catch up fast.”

Solberg returns to the factory car for next month’s Secto Rally Finland (5 - 8 August), where he will look to make further gains and possibly land his maiden stage win.

“I was close again,” he said. “In Estonia I was slower by just a tenth of a second on one stage. It’s frustrating, but I know it’s going to come soon. Honestly, right now I am working with my engineer and we’re finding good answers to the questions.”

Deputy team director Julien Moncet is all too aware of the obstacles his squad faces with such a short turnaround between Estonia and the equally fast roads in Finland.

“If you look at the level of performance, we have shown [in Estonia], we can’t be happy,” he admitted. “We have been down on pace compared to the cars in front, which has been frustrating.

“Looking at the number of stage wins we have taken, just one, gives us a good picture of where we are. We need more development on some of the fundamental parts of the car, so we have a long job ahead of us.”

Video: Rally Estonia top 5 moments
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM