Cooped up for the last two weeks, this is the moment Oliver Solberg has been staring at four walls waiting for. Next week, the 19-year-old will make his asphalt debut behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC at Rally di Alba.
A positive coronavirus test for his father Petter meant Oliver was forced to quarantine for two weeks. Finally out of Porto and out of Portugal, Solberg is bound for Italy. Granted, it’s not the Sardinian outing Hyundai Motorsport had planned for him aboard the i20 Coupe WRC this week, but it does mean a maiden outing in an asphalt-specification World Rally Car.
“Rally Alba will definitely be very exciting,” said Solberg. “It’s a fantastic event which has been made very famous through the years, with a lot of big names taking part.
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“For me, it’s a really good opportunity to gain experience with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on Tarmac. This will be the first time I drove a World Rally Car in competition on this surface, so it is very exciting. I have been watching some onboards from previous years of Alba and the roads look fantastic. I’ve also seen some videos with all the Hyundai guys driving from last year and it looks very nice.”
Solberg will look to build on his last i20 Coupe WRC outing at Arctic Rally Finland, where his seventh-placed performance was one of the talking points of the February event. The nine-stage, 105-kilometer rally starts with a ceremonial start on Saturday evening.
Solberg Jr says the event is all about levelling his learning curve with the world’s fastest rally cars.
“I know Alba is not a WRC round, it’s a smaller rally, with no pressure – this is nice to just to drive and gain experience. I think it’s a good opportunity from Andrea [Adamo – team principal] to give me more testing with the WRC. I have to say a big thank you to Mr Adamo and all the Hyundai Motorsport team for giving me this opportunity.
“Hopefully, we can have a good race and learn as much as possible. For sure, the competition will be hard with Ott [Tänak] there with the World Rally Car and the other WRC cars. It’s fantastic for me to get the data and learn as much as possible.”