As father, as son: why Oliver Solberg is on track for WRC greatness Car News

Rally drivers, like the police officers they try to avoid on the stretches of road, are getting younger and younger. Look at it this way: Hannu Mikkola was 41 when he won the world rally title in 1983, making him the longest-serving world champion in the history of the sport.

The oldest champion of the 1990s was Didier Auriol, who won the 1994 world title at the age of 36. Marcus Gronholm, who won the 2000 title, was 32 when he did so – remarkably in his first full season in the championship.

Even Sébastien Ogier, known as Sébastien Loeb’s young contender for the throne, was only months away from his 30th birthday when he secured his first title in 2013. After him, the next “new” champion was Ott Tanak in 2019, who was also over 30 years old.

But these days, drivers aim to peak at a much younger age. The question is, who will break Colin McRae’s 1995 record of becoming the youngest world champion in sports history, at age 27?

In December last year, Oliver Solberg of Sweden announced that he had signed a two-year contract with Hyundai to compete in the WRC2 category of the World Rally Championship – a step below the top category. poster – driving an i20 R5.

Barely two months later, the 19-year-old was already making his debut in a big world rally car, on Arctic Rally Finland: second round of the championship. He finished seventh overall – just missing sixth – after posting six times in the top five.

These were hardly ideal circumstances. He received a late call to participate in the event, and his regular co-pilot Aaron Johnston was ruled out with a positive Covid-19 test the day before the reconnaissance began.

“It was a bit hectic!” Oliver said, with a characteristic understatement. “But I was so happy to drive this car and really happy with the way the rally went, although I think it could have been better.

Perhaps the surprising thing is that Oliver has done “only” 42 rallies of any kind in his career to date. Although he is seen as a youngster on the rise, he still has relatively little experience at the highest level.

This is why he feels that the frequent comparison with Kalle Rovanpera, a year older than himself and a Toyota WRC factory driver (besides being another son of a famous father) is not valid. Again.

“We’re not competing against each other at the moment,” says Oliver – but he can’t help adding “although I’ve been faster than him on a few stages of the Arctic Rally. “

He’s Oliver’s innate competitor: a direct heirloom from his 2003 world champion father Petter. To be fair, Oliver also emphasizes: “The Arctic was a whole new rally for everyone. In other places, it might be a different story. “

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This notice was published: 2021-05-19 23:01:23