So far in his short career, driving on asphalt has been fun for Oliver Solberg. He’s either had a soft, subtle 600bhp rallycross supercar beneath him or the compliance of a grip-focused Monte Carlo-specification Volkswagen Polo R5.
All that changes later this month, when he gets his first go in a properly hunkered-down asphalt-trim racer at Rally di Roma.
The 18-year-old will contest the European Rally Championship opener at the wheel of a PA Racing-run Polo R5.
“To drive on Tarmac is really different to the gravel or the snow,” said Solberg. “OK, I did some dry stages in Monte Carlo this year, but this is nothing to compare. For Rome, the set-up from the car will be stiffer, completely different.
“In the gravel, you slide the car more and this can be [the] fastest way. On Tarmac, when you are sliding, you can hear you are killing the tires and taking away the speed. This is what I have to remember when I am getting into the car in Rome.”
While he might be an asphalt novice, Italy’s already well aware of Oliver Solberg. He’d just turned 16 when he drove a Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the first time and beat M-Sport works driver Teemu Suninen to second place at the Bologna Motorshow.
“That was a fantastic event,” he said. “I was driving with PA Racing then and it’s really nice to be back with these guys again. They have lots of experience with the car and the rally, so we are really in a good place with them.”
PA Racing sports director Matteo Bottacin remembers that moment well.
“In 2017, he was not even of 18 age, and at the Bologna Motorshow he went very, very fast with our team. Oliver is one of the most promising young people in the world.
“I am sure that this year, at the Rally in Rome, with the support of Pirelli and Volkswagen Motorsport, with Oliver we can get a good result. We are very happy to work with Oliver again.”