Oliver Solberg has found himself at a complete loss to understand how he has ended up down in 10th after the first full loop of Rally Estonia, as he struggled massively with his Hyundai i20 N Rally1.
A difficult start to his World Rally Championship campaign has failed to yield a single top five finish in five rounds thus far in 2022, with Estonia widely tipped to be a strong rally for Hyundai’s third driver.
Having spent much of his time competing in Estonia and neighboring Latvia during his junior career, Solberg has plenty of experience on the type of roads featured on Rally Estonia, pointing out that “I know how it should be.”
But thus far he has been well off the pace, 1m35.8seconds off rally leader Elfyn Evans after only five stages, much to his bemusement.
“I am on the limit many times but apparently the time is not there anyway,” Solberg lamented to DirtFish. “When I try to push a bit more I spin or I almost go off. I have no grip basically in the car and need to find some.”
Raanitsa, the fourth stage of the rally, was especially difficult for Solberg, spinning out and then stalling at a hairpin.
Solberg feels that what’s missing from his car is “grip, basically” though has no clear ideas of how to find it – as he’s already pushed his setup to the limit in search of said grip.
A softer suspension setup, in theory, should afford more grip at the expense of outright speed, though this wasn’t coming to pass at all in Solberg’s case.
“I’m soft like hell in my opinion!” he said of his setup on Friday morning. “But apparently there’s no grip. I tried to ask myself what is different but something is different but I don’t know why.
“The [setup] window is very narrow at the moment. Just to try to get a big window of safety basically.”
Nor could Solberg understand how he was burning through tires while not even matching the pace of his own team-mates.
“I have the most tire wear as well, while being the slowest. I basically have no grip. I don’t know why.”
His podium-contending team-mate Ott Tänak is best of the Hyundais in third – following a 10-second time penalty for a hybrid rules breach – but he too was frustrated, saying that “we were not prepared to come [to] this rally.”
That sentiment was also echoed by Solberg.
“Testing in Finland, and not in Estonia, maybe wasn’t the best, but that’s how it is,” he said.
“It’s part of being young but I think I will see what Tänak is doing and try to go a bit in the same direction.”
Solberg’s car is now expected to be used as a guinea pig of sorts within the Hyundai team, with deputy team director Julien Moncet indicating that the third i20 N Rally1 will be given the most extreme setup changes within the Hyundai camp for Friday afternoon.