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Images of Oliver Solberg competing at the rally Fafe in Portugal (2020)

Insight: Oliver Solberg's Guide To WRC

Apr 062021

There’s nothing quite like rally. Covering hundreds of corners - each one unique - over dirt, dust, gravel and everything in between at blistering speed, requires almost superhuman concentration. What’s more, while you are screaming down narrow roads you need to carefully listen to a unique set of cryptic-like instructions - shouted at you in real time by your co-driver - to know what’s coming up next.  

“Into 5 right long; opens over crest, 40, 6 left into 5 right, plus long don’t-cut tightens into 1.” 

Got that?  

Miss one instruction, and at the very least you’ll make a mistake and lose time; and at worst it could be a fast exit from the road, and the end of your weekend.  

Each rally consists of a number of timed sections, or stages; of which there are usually between 15 and 25 over the entire weekend. All of the stages are run on closed roads, and unlike circuit racing there is no direct driver to driver racing. Instead in the WRC each two man crew takes to the stage one at a time to try and complete it as fast as they can. The driver (and their co-driver) with the lowest combined stage times wins the rally. 

What’s more the driver and co-drivers’ duties extend beyond just getting the car from start to finish as quickly as possible though. At the beginning of the weekend it’s their job to map out the upcoming stages via reconnaissance - known as recce - runs.  

To make sense of it all, and give a one of a kind driver-eye insight into this intense and unique competition, we sat down with Oliver Solberg. The son of former WRC and World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg. 


Oliver has focused his entire life and driving career efforts on breaking into the legendary WRC. Coming off the back of recent European Rally Championship success, and now signed as a factory Junior driver to reigning WRC Constructors Champions Hyundai Motorsport, he is closer than ever to cracking the big time. Read on to find out from Oliver why you should follow arguably the world's most underrated and extreme FIA World Championship. When you’ve finished checking out Oliver’s insight into the WRC, don't forget to watch Oliver’s starring role in Episode one of Monster Energy’s ‘Come With Us’ video series, found on YouTube here:  

"When you drive 200km/h through the forest, there's nothing like it. That’s why it is so special to me!"

Why is the WRC so special?

Oliver Solberg: “There's nothing like the sport. No other discipline is like the WRC. You have all kinds of different surfaces and conditions. The cars are built to go over snow, rocks, ice, mud, sand - all at crazy speeds. You drive a thousand corners every race weekend, and every corner is different. There’s always a new challenge and no one day is ever the same. When you drive 200km/h through the forest, there's nothing like it. That’s why it is so special to me!”

Explain to us why you are devoting your career to competing in it?

Oliver Solberg: “I don't know anything else! I’m just working hard to follow my passion in life. It’s the same with anything else in life, if you feel so strongly about something that you want to devote yourself to it fully then it is naturally the main focus. I’ve grown up wanting to be a world champion and I’m focusing everything on this, because it’s so special and so unique.”

Outside of your family who or what inspires you to go rallying?

Oliver Solberg: “Rallying! Rallying inspires me to do more rallying! I just love it - it’s so much fun to get behind the wheel and do anything that has to do with cars or rallying. That inspires me!”

"Seeing cars fly 200km/h over huge jumps - some of the fastest roads on the calendar - is something everyone needs to see at least once."

What should fans look out for?

Oliver Solberg: “I think any fan or anyone new to rally needs to see rally Finland. Seeing cars fly 200km/h over huge jumps - some of the fastest roads on the calendar - is something everyone needs to see at least once. It will for sure win anyone over to become a fan, and it’s what the hardcore fans love to see as well.”

What is the difference between an R5 and WRC machinery?

Oliver Solberg: “The R5 is basically a very simple version of the WRC car, everything is turned down. On the WRC car everything is maximum; from the aerodynamics, road handling, paddle shift, and pure power. For me stepping from one to the other is not so much about the top speed where you notice the difference, but it is the acceleration, and the way the car holds the road and changes direction. The technology to make the WRC car work this way is so much more advanced than the R5 car. You have electronic diffs working together with an aero package - which is a lot to learn on its own.”

How important is the shakedown?

Oliver Solberg: “It’s actually the most important part of a whole weekend! You have to have a good recce, and you have to make good pace notes. If you have bad pace notes, you can’t go fast. To prepare fully during the recce is the most important part of going fast over the weekend. You have some videos of the stage before you jump in the car to do the recce - these are provided to every driver competing on the weekend. This gives you a nice first glimpse of the roads ahead. Mainly you just get the two passes (for real in the car yourself) in order to turn a blank page into all the pace notes for that stage. You only have those two goes to get it right!”

"You get two passes on the road for the recce, and then you have to watch the onboard video if you want to study the stage any more."

What’s your favourite part of a weekend?

Oliver Solberg: “Simply driving. For me there’s nothing like driving flat out over the stages and pushing to do as well as you can. It’s the reason everyone is there, and it’s for sure the most exciting part of any weekend.”

Is covering 100s of kms over a single weekend at huge speed daunting?

Oliver Solberg: “That’s why we have the pace notes! So at least you know what is going on and coming next. It makes it a little less scary, you know? Haha!”

How long do you spend with Aaron studying the maps etc?

Oliver Solberg: “I try to literally just drive from the notes as they are called out to me - I don’t study them or try to memorise them that much at all. I just drive on the feeling I have in the car at that very moment, and any notes I’ve made during the recce. You get two passes on the road for the recce, and then you have to watch the onboard video if you want to study the stage any more. I do it mainly from my initial reaction of the pace notes, rather than planning and memorising the stage.”

How much do you work on the car yourself?

Oliver Solberg: “Mainly we work on setup changes between the stages - this all has to be done with the tools you have in the car, so you can’t make huge changes. Anything big in terms of repairs or changes has to wait until you get back to the service [paddock]. If you have a puncture or something smaller out on stage you are on your own and need to find a way to fix it, which can be quite a challenge.”

Special stage? Power stage? What’s the difference for you?

For me every stage is just as important. Of course you want to get five points on the power stage, but from a pure drivers perspective every stage is as important - from the first to the last; so I always put the same amount of work in.

Finally, describe the WRC in three words...

Oliver Solberg: “Fast, Crazy, Adventurous.”