It’s definitely been a Solberg Sunday. Just hours after his participation in next week’s Safari Rally Kenya was confirmed, Oliver Solberg scored his maiden World Rally Car win at Rally di Alba.
Climbing from his car, the 19-year-old accepted the fist bump and the family hug, but he was quick to point out that his Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Ott Tänak was the quicker of the two across the stages. Tänak won all nine stages, but was delayed by a two-minute-30-second penalty for late arrival at a control after the team worked longer on his i20 Coupe WRC.
Stage six was as close as Solberg came to winning a stage, when he finished the 3.85-mile Niella-Bossolasco test, just 2.4s behind the 2019 world champion.
For Oliver, the Piedmont event was about learning to drive a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on asphalt for the first time.
Solberg said: “I had a lot of fun today. The car is just incredible on the Tarmac. I only drove on the snow in Arctic before, so to come here and just get in the car and go at shakedown yesterday [Saturday] was quite something.
“I know I have a lot to learn from the car still, but coming here to Alba was such a cool way for me to drive on Tarmac for the first time. The roads are amazing, so much fun to drive – especially in a car like this one. Everything worked really well.
“The main thing was for me to take the experience and learn the car. If there was one thing I would have liked, it would have been to win a stage. I was close sometimes, but it’s tough when you are competing with a guy like Ott – he’s a world champion!
“I know we will register this as a win, but I don’t take this so seriously. We could see all the time Ott’s speed was pretty incredible, so I think there is still some work for me to do!”
For Tänak, there was a feeling of satisfaction at having learned more about the i20 Coupe WRC after a middling run on the Croatia Rally.
“We came here to test,” the Estonian told DirtFish, “and that’s what we have done. It wasn’t about winning the rally for us, it was about understanding more and gathering more data after Croatia.
“The conditions here were a little bit different to Croatia – it was hotter and the roads were sometimes quite tricky – with the three loops the line was also getting quite dirty. We’ve learned a lot.”
Hyundai Motorsport team principal Andrea Adamo can sleep easy tonight. The Adamo Grand Prix delivered the right result: a one-two in the World Rally Car only #RAplus element and a one-two-three for the i20 R5 on the Italian championship round.
Swiss Il Valli was the only other World Rally Car driver competing – he finished the 65-mile event close to four minutes behind Solberg.
Luca Rossetti edged fellow Italian Corrado Fontana by 4.6s for the Rally di Alba win. Irishman Josh McErlean was third with his Hyundai i20 R5 close on a minute behind the podium-topping Hyundais.
With close to 200 cars starting both the conventional Rally di Alba and the #RAplus event, the organizers had their work cut out to keep the field flowing in the three loops of stages.
Solberg was impressed: “I have seen lots of times on DirtFish that people call this rally the Adamo Grand Prix and I can understand why now – our team principal Andrea Adamo is a big star here on his home rally. He is talking all the time with so many people and taking so many pictures. It was great to see him having a lot of fun.
“And congratulations to the organizers – so many rally cars here!”
Rally di Alba – #RAplus: Leading positions after SS9
1 Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston (Hyundai) 1h01m42.0s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +27.9s
3 Paolo ‘Il Valli’ Vallivero/Stefano Cirillo (Ford) +3m54.3s
Rally di Alba: Leading positions after SS9
1 Luca Rossetti/Manuel Fenoli (Hyundai) 1h02m22.0s
2 Corrado Fontana/Nicola Arena (Hyundai) +4.6s
3 Josh McErlean/Keaton Williams (Hyundai) +58.4s
4 Andrea Carella/Elia De Guio (Škoda) +1m13.1s
5 Elwis Chentre/Fulvio Florean (Škoda) +1m15.4s
6 Giuseppe Testa/Emanuele Inglesi (Škoda) +1m30.8s
7 Rudy Andriolo/Manuel Menegon (Škoda) +1m44.0s
8 Luca Cantamessa/Lisa Bollito (Volkswagen) +2m12.1s
9 Jacopo Araldo/Daniele Araspi (Škoda) +2m23.4s
10 Albert von Thurn und Taxis/Bernhard Ettel (Škoda) +2m28.9s