Oliver Solberg says he shocked himself by setting the fourth-fastest time on the repeat pass of Arctic Rally Finland’s Sarriojärvi test, his second stage in a World Rally Car.
The 19-year-old, who is making his top-flight World Rally Championship debut this weekend in a 2C Competition-run Hyundai i20, was 10th fastest and half a minute shy of pacesetter Ott Tänak on SS1.
But he improved his stage time by more than 20 seconds on his second attempt, and his effort was bettered only by Tänak, Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä and Craig Breen.
Asked about that stage time, Solberg told DirtFish: “It was incredible, I was quite shocked myself to be honest.
“Of course it [the road] was very rutted and bad conditions but I felt I was way too careful in many places but also tried to push in some places.
“But it’s not easy when you have to try and keep the tires alive.”
Solberg, who admitted he was “a little bit nervous before the start” of the first stage and subsequently stalled, said he would try to avoid getting carried away with his headline time.
“The base is great but I’m not going to try anything more than I have now,” said Solberg, who is eighth overall.
I've been smiling the whole way so it's been incredibleOliver Solberg
“It’s just to try to build the experience, get more mileage and of course learn the car even more so it’s just try to drive as I have.”
Solberg’s preparations for the rally were affected when he was forced to make an 11th-hour co-driver change, with Seb Marshall stepping in for his regular partner Aaron Johnston.
But after he and Marshall “connected straight away”, Solberg said his first day of competition in a World Rally Car had been “better than what I imagined”.
“I’ve been dreaming about it all my life and now in the car with Seb I’ve been smiling the whole way so it’s been incredible,” he said.