What’s more intimidating than one Solberg?

Two is the answer, as Oliver and Petter star on the entry for this week’s Royal Rally of Scandinavia

Solsta Foto

Hayden Paddon finished second to one Solberg at last year’s Royal Rally of Scandinavia – this year he faces two of them as Petter joins his son Oliver on the start list for Sweden’s round of the European Rally Championship this week.

Predictably, the intra-family fight has grabbed the headlines in Karlstad and Paddon’s well aware of the potential threat from the house of Solberg – but he’s looking more at the longer game of the a second successive European title.

“This is one of my favorite rallies in the ERC,” said Paddon. “We were second last year and this time I’m looking for a minimum of a podium finish – but there will be some very tough competition and some fast locals, with both Oliver and Petter!

“We’re expecting plenty of intense rallying and we’ve been working hard while we were home in New Zealand utilizing our Hyundai i20 Rally2 car to develop a few upgrades to be implemented with our European car before this event.”

Hyundai i20 N-mounted Paddon was heading for second at the season-opening Rally Hungary until a powerstage puncture dropped him to fourth. Sixth at Canarias was a reasonable result given the pace of three local experts and it being on Paddon’s less favored surface.


Paddon dropped points on final stage ofseason-opening Rally Hungary

Frenchman Mathieu Franceschi currently leads the standings after finishing second on both events aboard his Fabia. Franceschi holds a 21-point advantage (with 30 awarded for a win) over reigning champion Paddon. Hungary winner Simone Tempestini and Canarias victor Yoann Bonato are a further two and three points adrift, respectively.

Tempestini (Škoda) was a somewhat surprise winner of the opening round, driving a sensible event while others hit trouble. He didn’t compete on Gran Canaria but is back this week, looking to prove that Hungary win was no fluke. A lack of experience of Royal Rally may count against him though.

In asphalt specialist Bonato’s absence, Citroën’s hopes lie with one-time World Rally winner Mads Østberg. The Norwegian missed Hungary through illness and struggled to gel with his C3 at Canarias. He found the going tough on this event last year but Citroën’s recent gravel gains will offer some encouragement.

Third in Scandinavia last year was Mārtiņš Sesks. The Latvian has had a difficult start to the 2024 ERC season, crashing his Toyota GR Yaris from the lead of Rally Hungary then struggling on the Canarias asphalt. Royal Rally offers a chance to kickstart his ERC campaign before making his Rally1 debut in the WRC later this month. The perennially unlucky Mikko Heikkilä and Czech star Filip Mareš should also be contenders in two more Yarises.

Leading the Ford camp is Jon Armstrong, whose first full season in Fiesta Rally2 machinery has started promisingly with top-eight finishes in both opening rounds.


WRX champion Johan Kristoffersson joins the ERC regulars this week

Further Scandinavian interest includes multiple World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson. In his family team-run Polo, the Swede makes his first international rally start since Rally Finland in 2021.

One-time ERC champion Efrén Llarena will hope for a better run than on last year’s event, but an early retirement from Rally Hungary did not help his gravel form. Fellow Škoda drivers Mikołaj Marczyk and Andrea Mabellini will be targeting top-10 finishes among an ultra-competitive entry.

In Junior ERC, it’s tight at the top. Opening-round winner Max McRae (Peugeot 208 Rally4) is chasing a return to the top of the table after fourth place on Canarias dropped him behind winner Mille Johansson (Opel Corsa).

Royal Rally of Scandinavia kicks off with shakedown at 1100 local time on Thursday (June 13). The action for real then gets under way with a new superspecial stage that evening before crews begin nearly 120 miles of competitive gravel action across Friday and Saturday. The rally-finishing powerstage takes place on Saturday afternoon (June 15) before crews return to Karlstad for the podium celebrations at 1800.