Three years on and nothing’s changed. The fall colors are just as rich and just as stunning as ever. The smell of rain still hangs in the air and the slate-mixed roads are as ready as they’ll ever be.
Talk to Oliver Solberg about Alwen and Brenig and he smiles. His memory bounds back three years and he remembers. He was fastest in WRC2. On both stages. His World Rally Championship debut – which ran on the same North Welsh roads at the 2019 Rally GB – was good.
He crashed on day one. Yin.
He won stages on days two and three. Yang.
“I think, when I finished a stage I was fastest,” he grinned. “But also it was a little bit s**t at times as well.
“But the big thing was the roads. Honestly, they were some of the coolest roads in the world. That’s why I want to come back and drive in Wales again. We don’t know when we will be able to do these stages and I have this opportunity. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
That, in a nutshell, is why Oliver Solberg’s coming to the Cambrian Rally on Saturday.
That’s not to forget Friday. Usually, a Tarmac stage in this part of the world means a dash around the headland reaching out to the Irish Sea from the charming coastal town of Llandudno: the Great Orme. Not this time. Friday night will be a brace of seven-mile stages in the lanes inland.
“Do you think people will be using slicks?” asked Solberg. “I think it would be good to have some fun and run with the car in gravel setup.”
Fun. It’s what Solberg’s after in a Melvyn Evans-run Monster Energy-backed Volkswagen Polo R5.
There’s no getting away from the pressure the 21-year-old’s been under this season. Just talking to him ahead of his return to Wales, he sounds like the just-turned 18-year-old who set about the principality in 2019.
He won’t be drawn on what’s happened with Hyundai. He doesn’t need to be. The apparent Alzenau implosion has left little to the imagination.
And Oliver won’t be drawn on what’s to come beyond Llandudno this weekend.
“Let’s see what’s coming,” he said. “Right now, I’m going to really enjoy myself. It’s just a shame Elliott [Edmondson, co-driver] won’t be here with me.”
Edmondson’s recovering from a mountain bike shunt earlier in the month and will be back alongside Oliver for their final Hyundai Motorsport act: the Rally Japan recce next month.
Edmondson’s loss is Craig Drew’s gain. Solberg’s former co-driver and Subaru Motorsports USA team-mate will return to the right-hand seat this week.
“Craig’s great,” said Solberg. “We have worked together before and we know each other well. It’ll be very good.”
Wales will always hold a special place in the Solberg family’s heart. The southern end of the country’s where papa Solberg won his world championship in 2003 and Llandudno’s where he signed off on a spectacular WRC career by beating Oliver to the WRC2 class three years ago.
“It’s a really nice place,” said Solberg Jr. “Like I said, some super-cool roads and some incredible memories. Let’s see if we can make some more this week.”
The Cambrian Rally – the final round of this year’s British Rally Championship – starts on Friday evening and finishes back in Llandudno 24 hours later.