Oliver Solberg is a champion. But, in typical Oliver Solberg fashion, he doesn’t do things by half… another exceptional drive at Lõuna-Eesti Ralli was enough to win not one but two rally championship crowns.
The 17-year-old Volkswagen Polo R5 driver is the Latvian and Baltic Rally Champion. And he remains on target for the regional hat-trick, leading the Estonian title race as well.
“When I started this year, I had never driven a four-wheel drive car in competition,” said Oliver. “I didn’t know what to expect from the rallies and from the season. To have won these two championships before the end of August is amazing. I’m so happy for me and Aaron [Johnston, Oliver’s co-driver], the team and, of course, for my parents who give me so much support.”
Winning championships is nothing new for Oliver, who took last year’s RallyX Nordic title, but season-long success in rallying is something special. “The rallycross title was nice last year,” said Oliver. “It was good to drive the car with so much power, but rallying was always what I wanted to do. Rallying is my dream and to be Latvian and Baltic champion in the first year this was possible for me is unbelievable. Fantastic.”
Based in Võru, in the south-eastern corner of Estonia, the 11-stage Lõuna-Eesti Ralli (running Friday-Saturday) was another demonstration of Oliver’s impressive speed and exceptional maturity at the wheel of his Volkswagen Polo R5. Among his fellow R5 competitors, Oliver remains unbeaten in five starts this season – an incredible effort given that he only started his stage rally in a four-wheel drive car just over eight months ago.
Those victories include a historic Rally Liepāja success, where Oliver became the youngest ever winner of a European Rally Championship round and an R5 victory at Rally Estonia where he showed the cream of the World Rally Championship’s premier support series the way home. This weekend the 17-year-old was only beaten by Georg Gross, an Estonian driver running a current specification Ford Fiesta WRC – a World Rally Car with 100bhp more than Oliver’s R5.
Despite driving a slower car compared to his rival, Oliver had his sights set on a David and Goliath story and led Gross at the conclusion of Friday night’s three stages. Fastest overall again on Saturday morning’s opener, a small spin on the next test allowed the Fiesta WRC back to the front.
Oliver won half of the remaining six gravel stages, but missed the win by 3.9 seconds.
“I always want to win,” said Oliver, “but this time I have to be realistic. This time I couldn’t make the David and Goliath story – maybe if I hadn’t had the spin it might have been different. I can’t be too disappointed though, can I? It’s not a bad weekend when you win two rally championships!”
From Estonia, Oliver heads south-west through Latvia and Lithuania, bound for Warsaw, Poland and the next stage of his 2019 adventure. “It’s Gymkhana GRiD time on Saturday 7th September,” he said. “I love this event. I came so close to beating my father in South Africa last year and he’s definitely the target for me this time around in Warsaw.”