I’ve thought about this moment for a while, when would Oliver be coming to the World Rally Championship with the big car?
It’s a big thing. A big deal. But it’s a good time.
When you look to some of the results from last year and the times he set with the Hyundai i20 R5 – especially on the second day of the Arctic [Lapland] Rally and then at Monte Carlo – it’s clear this step to an i20 Coupe WRC was coming.
But, honestly, Pernilla and me, we didn’t see this one coming until later in the year.
The first reaction for us was a really nice one. As parents, we are so proud.
If your child plays hockey or football, it’s like the first time they are named in the big team. It’s a big deal.
But straight away, both of us were wondering: “Is it too soon?”
We know Oliver is ready for this moment. We know he can drive the car. Honestly, if you saw him drive a 600bhp rallycross car from such an early age, you would know he’s not afraid of the power and he really loves the speed.
The times he set with the Hyundai i20 R5 - especially on the second day of the Arctic [Lapland] Rally and then at Monte Carlo – it’s clear this step to an i20 Coupe WRC was coming.Petter Solberg
But is this the right time?
We told this to Andrea [Adamo, Hyundai Motorsport team principal] in the meeting we were having. I have to tell you, this guy Andrea, is cool. And he knows his history. Straight away he came back to me and said:
“Tell me Petter, what did you tell Malcolm [Wilson, M-Sport managing director] when he came to you to ask you to drive Thomas Rådström’s Focus on the 1999 Safari? You didn’t tell him you thought it might be too soon. You jumped at it!”
It’s the same for Oliver now. He has jumped at it. He can’t wait. And neither can we.
Like Andrea says, we have to remember that this event is one for Oliver to have some fun. It’s like a test on the event. There’s no pressure, he and Aaron [Jonhston, co-driver] just have to drive and enjoy themselves.
I was really fortunate in my career that Malcolm put his trust and his faith in me – I wouldn’t be where I am now without him. I was wondering if these [types of] guys still existed in the World Rally Championship and, in bringing Oliver to this level, let me tell you they definitely do.
Andrea’s enthusiasm is fantastic and his way of helping Oliver is so special. Talking again as a parent, to see somebody looking out for our boy in the way he is, is very reassuring for Pernilla and me. And it’s going to be such an adventure.
I’m surprised at how the feeling of excitement has come back to me. I will never forget taking that call from Malcolm more than 20 years ago, to understand that I was about to take this big step. The feeling is really quite the same for Oliver. He and Aaron are in for such an amazing adventure in the snow.
Adamo is definitely really smart in the choice of the event. Oliver has some good feeling for these conditions, he’s driven a lot in the snow and it should be more straightforward for him to take on this challenge in Finland rather than going to a Tarmac rally where he’s never competed before.
We are really happy to have 2C Competition running the car as well – we worked with them on Monte Carlo last month and they were very good, nothing was too much trouble for them. Fantastic guys. I think some of the guys from Oliver’s team will help out a little bit on the event as well, which is good – it means he will have some familiar faces around him.
Pernilla will be busy making videos of Oliver for DirtFish and our other partners. It’s so difficult in these times with the pandemic, Arctic Rally Finland is another event where fans won’t be allowed to come and watch – so these videos are really important for the fans to show what Oliver is doing.
But both of us are there to really support Oliver, it’s important for him to know we’re there with him.
Oliver is really finding his way with the team and he will learn a lot on the car at the test and at the event.
I know they will be in the main team, but the Hyundai drivers are all really good guys and I’m Oliver will have some questions for them. I remember really well that I didn’t stop asking questions with Colin [McRae]. All the time when we were at tests, I just didn’t stop; I wanted to know everything and I’m sure Oliver will be the same!
Oliver will be busy with the team in the day, but I’ll look forward to catching up at the end of the day – he can use me as a bit of a sounding board for everything that’s gone on. But the main thing is that Pernilla and I will be there to help him, support him and be a bit of a safety net for him.
I guess we’re just like other parents all around the world: we’re just watching our teenage son doing his sport at the weekend!