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Images of Oliver Solberg at the final round of the 2018 RallyX Nordic Championship

Interview: Level up with Oliver Solberg

Dec 192018

Having big shoes to fill is a phrase often over used. However when you are next in line to a rallying dynasty - which includes a triple FIA World Champion father, and a mother who is a team boss and a very talented rally driver herself - the saying takes on a new meaning entirely. Not that this seems to bother Oliver Solberg.

At 17 years old, Oliver is already breaking records. He’s dominated Crosskart racing in his native Sweden and Norway; become the youngest driver in the world to race a world rallycross Supercar; won the 2018 RallyX Nordic Rallycross Championship; and notched up some incredible outings in the European Rally Championship. More recently he has also shared a podium with double FIA World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson and his Dad, Petter, at the 2018 Gymkhana GRiD finals in Johannesburg.

Oliver is now taking the online world by storm too. Having recently launched his own YouTube channel, eagle-eyed fans will be able to spot him going door-to-door alongside the Head Hoonigan in Charge Ken Block, in Gymkhana TEN, and the Amazon Prime Video Series; The Gymkhana Files.

Now knee deep in off-season winter testing, as well as helping to develop the next generation of rallying games with Codemasters, and a busy school schedule in France, Oliver’s schedule is packed. Nevertheless we managed to grab him for a few minutes to find out what he had to say about working on Gymkhana TEN, stealing - sorry; borrowing - his Dad’s cars, and who he thinks would win in a fight between Sébastian Loeb, Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström. Read on to find out…

“For me Rally has always been something special and close to my heart. It gets your adrenaline going; it’s something unique.”

So let’s cut to the chase; are you faster than your Dad?

“Erm… no! He’s still faster! I can definitely say that much…”

Rally, Rallycross or Gymkhana GRiD, and why?

“Rally and Gymkhana GRiD! For me Rally has always been something special and close to my heart. It gets your adrenaline going; it’s something unique. For action and racing Gymkhana GRiD is also unique. You drift and slide, and have fun; thats what what every driver likes the most. I don’t think there’s anything better than that!”

Tell us about getting on the podium at GRiD in Johannesburg…

“It was really cool! From having technical problems last year, and then battling through some more difficulties this year, but still managing to get on the podium with my father and Johan was very special. Racing against my father in the semi was really cool - it was a big dream come true!”

Ok, you can pick any rally or circuit and any car - where do you go and why?

“Tough question… there are a lot of places to choose from. I think Rally Sweden with a 1997 Subaru 22b!”

“I’ve watched all of Ken’s movies so it’s always been a dream of mine to maybe have a chance at being in one of the Gymkhana movies too...”

What was it like working with Ken Block in Gymkhana TEN…

“’I’ve watched all of Ken’s movies so it’s always been a dream of mine to maybe have a chance at being in one of the Gymkhana movies too. Out of the blue Ken sent me a text and asked me if I wanted to join in Gymkhana TEN, and I was blown away. Driving the Ford Focus on snow in the north of Sweden - on my home soil - was very very special for me.”

Did you have to give him pointers on sliding a car on ice?

“Haha no! I didn’t have to teach him anything - he doesn’t have a problem with sliding a car! It’s more like he taught me to have more fun behind the wheel of a car. He told me to just throw the car into a situation and try something! I usually just want to just do perfect runs straight away - but he was encouraging me to just throw it in and then whatever happens, happens, you know?! It was great fun!”

If you got the chance where would you film your own episode of Gymkhana, and what car would you use?

“I think Finland probably… Yeah, a rally stage in Finland! Something super fast like Ouninpohja. I’d need a car with proper aero - like the 2018 Toyota WRC car. It would be all huge jumps in the video!”

What are your proudest of so far…

“I think probably winning the RallyX Nordic Rallycross Championship this year. It was a really tough year, but everything came good in the end. I worked on myself, my race-craft and my approach - but also I worked hard together with my team. So that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve achieved so far!”

What is your ultimate goal as an driver?

“To become a world champion in WRC! At least two times!”

To bring more titles into the Solberg family?

“Well yes, partly. My father did it once and I want to do it more. But also I want to show that I could win the championship more than once. Given the right car at the right time of course.”

“I’m helping develop the new game - Dirt Rally 2.0....The new evolution of the game is going to be amazing - it’s very very good!”

Have you ever borrowed the keys to any of your Dad's cars?

“A lot of them! The Citroen Xsara was probably the most fun haha! He [Petter] wasn’t home - I think he was in Germany - and my my engineer Francois and I took it out for a run!”

Tell us your best joke…

“Haha! I don’t really have a best joke - I’m better at impressions but in Swedish and Norwegian!”

You’ve been over to Codemasters recently - what’s in the works for you there?

“I’m super excited about this project. I’m helping develop the new game - Dirt Rally 2.0. I should have been over once a month but because of work, racing and school I’ve only been twice. I’m heading out next week again for two days. The new evolution of the game is going to be amazing - it’s very very good!”

So you’re a big gamer? Are you on Twitch?

“I’m not on Twitch actually. A lot of my friends are, but I don’t really play shooting games or stuff like Fortnight. I only play car games; that’s what I like. It’s my second hobby! Codemasters gave me a gaming chair but I changed it to a proper full-carbon rally seat that my team had in the workshop. It’s not moving seat but the wheel I have is a Logitech steering wheel - I’m going to add a handbrake and sequential shift to the set-up too. It’s super fun and helps me prepare for my racing!”

“2019 is going to be a lot of fun!”

How do you deal with pressure on a race weekend, do you have any pre-race rituals?

“I’ve always struggled with nerves in the past. I got nervous and put a lot of pressure on myself. I’ve worked hard with my trainer to help myself get in the right headspace and be in the right bubble before a race. It’s hard to not get the wrong emotions and feelings involved - and that’s helped a lot. I usually try to do a small run before a race, and then directly before I always put my right glove on before the left and also my right boot on before the left. I don’t think any of these small things make a difference but it helps me focus for sure!”

What’s your best pick-up line?

“Haha - how about, do you want to see my race car?!”

Veronica isn’t answering the phone - who do you pick as your co-driver? Hailie Deegan?

“Haha - no, I would probably go with the Monster Girl from Gymkhana GRiD in South Africa. Simone - she’s not bad!”

What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven?

“Probably something like 205km/h - that was in Tierp in the last RallyX Nordic Rallycross race… That was fast!”

Who do you think would win in a post-race fight - Johan Kristoffersson, Sébastian Loeb or Mattias Ekström?

“Definitely not Ekström! Haha! Probably Johan because I don’t think Loeb would be able to reach him!”

Finally, Whats up for you in 2019?

“A lot of R5 in rallying, maybe one or two rallycross races… but a lot or rally mainly! 2019 is going to be a lot of fun!”