Oliver Solberg can remember precisely where he was the first time he sat alongside his father in a World Rally Car. He’ll never forget it. It’s reasonable to assume the same can be said for Petter Solberg for the first time he sat alongside his son in a World Rally Car too.
It was just outside the town Alba, on the Albaretto Sinio stage earlier this week.
“For the first 300 meters,” said Petter, “I don’t know. I was… well, I was s******* myself a little bit. Honestly, I didn’t know what these cars could do on the asphalt. The aero was so impressive – but what was also impressive was the way he [Oliver] could use it.
“When you are driving cars on Tarmac, it takes time for you to understand how the aero grip is working, but for that first 300 meters? Well, b***** hell. I s*** myself. After that, the road was a little bit opening up and not so tight and narrow.”
Pausing briefly to relive the action, the 2003 world champion finds his voice again.
“When you understand Oliver has so low experience of driving the car on Tarmac, it was very impressive. And the car was fantastic as well.
“I have to say, [Andrea] Adamo was pushing me to go. Oliver had asked him and he was telling me I should take the ride, but I wasn’t so sure. It was good. It was really good. It’s nice to sit beside your son and see what he can do. I’m happy for that moment. Apart from the first 300 meters.”
From Solberg Jr’s side, the story’s slightly different.
“Did he mention the first 300 meters?” he asked, with a grin. “It was good fun. Andrea was such a good guy telling me to take him – when papa had me and Andrea telling him to get in the car he had to.
“I remember 2008 when I was first in a World Rally Car with him. I couldn’t believe what the top cars could do. Now I have a much better understanding of what my father was doing back then. It was really cool to come in the full circle and for me to be showing him what it’s like from the co-driver’s seat.
“It was a lot of fun and quite emotional to look across and see papa with me at work!”
For an insight into that first 300 meters and the rest of the stage, jump back to summer 2020, when I took a ride alongside Thierry Neuville down the same stretch of road.
When it comes to that first third of a kilometer, I’m with you Petter…