Oliver Solberg is joining Hyundai Motorsport for 2021 and beyond – and it’s a deal entirely earned on his own merit.
Yes, the family name is a good one, but Solberg Jr’s not interested on trading on his father’s titles.
Adamo has spotted that. And signed Oliver Solberg on a two-year deal reckoned to carry the 19-year-old forward to a likely Rally1 seat in 2022.
“Oliver has, of course, a very well-known surname,” Adamo told DirtFish.
“But he has already started to prove himself in his own right, with results like the WRC3 win in Estonia.”
The Baltics have been good to Petter’s son in the last 18 months.
During a sublime summer of 2019, Oliver became the youngest ever winner of an FIA European Rally Championship round – Rally Liepāja in Latvia – then smashed the R5 class on Rally Estonia (and finishing just 24 seconds behind Markko Märtin’s Ford Fiesta WRC).
In between those two events, he cast a spell over the motorsport world with a jaw-dropping run up Goodwood’s Festival of Speed hillclimb in a Citroën DS3 Supercar. He didn’t win the shootout, but he certainly didn’t leave anything behind either.
It’s results like that – allied to another Rally Estonia R5 win in 2020 – that have caught the attention of team principals all around the World Rally Championship service park.
After a season driving in association with Škoda Motorsport, the step from Rally2 to the premier class was always going to be at the forefront of Solberg’s mind when he picked from what DirtFish understands were a variety of offers for his services in 2021.
Hyundai Motorsport will offer a structured graduation to the top table, but he’ll spend another year in the second tier next season.
Solberg and his Northern Irish co-driver Aaron Johnston will contest WRC2 with Hyundai Motorsport, running the firm’s current i20 R5 until the i20 N Rally2 comes in mid-season.
“To join Hyundai Motorsport is fantastic,” said Solberg. “To be driving for the reigning World Rally Champion manufacturer… this is a big part of the dream for me.
“Even saying the words: ‘I’m a Hyundai Motorsport driver’, it just keeps making me smile. I have a lot of people to thank for helping me to get to this point, of course my family and all of the team around me, but also Hyundai Motorsport team principal Andrea Adamo and team manager Alain Penasse. They have given me this incredible opportunity.
“This is another step for me. It definitely feels like this is a new chapter. I have made the start to my career now this is the next part. But it’s like anything: we can celebrate this deal today, but tomorrow we start the hard work to make the most of working with the world champions.”
But what of 2022? The team is focused on next year right now and details of year two will be confirmed sometime next season.
As one source pointed out: “You’d be a brave man to bet against Oliver Solberg being in a Rally1 car when 2022 starts…”
Solberg will be joined in Hyundai’s WRC2 line-up by Ole Christian Veiby, while Jari Huttunen is part of the manufacturer’s plans again, though his program is yet to be defined.