Sat 11 Feb 2023

Solberg soldiers towards WRC2 victory

Oliver Solberg is on track to claim his maiden WRC2 victory after piloting his all-new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 to a 51.6sec buffer over Ole Christian Veiby on Saturday at Rally Sweden.

Twenty-one-year-old Solberg began Saturday with a 13sec lead and immediately set about consolidating it. He set the pace on the day's opening stage, stretching his buffer to 17.1sec over closest rival Sami Pajari, who was distracted by a flailing side window.

Distraction turned to frustration one stage later for Pajari when a spin cost the former Junior WRC champion 40sec. He dropped back to fourth overall, alleviating the pressure on Solberg with new runner-up Ole Christian Veiby more than half a minute back in his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. 

Jari Huttunen’s podium dreams were short-lived as the Finn crashed into a snowbank on SS12, plummeting to 14th overall. Two stages later his day was over with engine issues on his R5-specification Fabia. 

This allowed Pajari to return back inside the top three while Estonia’s Georg Linnamäe, driving a Hyundai i20 N Rally2, climbed to fourth overall. Bolivia’s Marco Bulacia rounded out the top five.

"The competition is so high, but we made no mistakes and we had good tyre wear,” ruminated Solberg at the end of Saturday’s action. “I think that was the key this afternoon. We're ready for tomorrow."

Victory this weekend would mark Solberg’s first WRC class win since Rally Estonia in 2020 when the-then 18-year-old took out glory in the WRC3 category.

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