Out of darkness cometh Llandudno, Wales and some of the world’s best stages. That’s the story for Oliver Solberg right now.
Having been dropped by Hyundai Motorsport earlier this month, the 21-year-old has entered the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally in a Volkswagen Polo R5. In his own words, he wants to drive and he wants to smile.
In Wales, free from the grief and the grind of life within the Korean team, he will do just that.
Three years ago, Solberg stormed into the World Rally Championship in a flurry of stages wins and mistakes. Aged 17, there was no doubting the pace of the youngest driver ever to win an FIA-designated event (that year’s ERC’s Rally Liepāja), but there were some rough edges.
And an awful lot of smiling.
When did we last see Solberg smile? Like genuinely smile?
Not for a very long time.
But you simply can’t keep a Solberg down. I might have mentioned this before, but remember what Oliver’s father Petter did when Subaru withdrew from the World Rally Championship? He didn’t sit around and mope, longing to smile again, he got out, created a team out of nowhere and got himself grinning again.
That’s what Oliver’s going to do on stages like Brenig, Alwen, Penmachno and Clocaenog on October 28/29.
It hasn’t happened at Hyundai – and Solberg’s adamant he’s not going to dwell on the reasons for that – but he’s delighted to be aboard the same Polo he used to make history in 2019.
The Monster Energy driver said: “I think everybody knows Wales is a very special place for my family and those roads are really, really nice ones to drive.
“Obviously things have changed a little bit this season. I don’t want to talk about what has happened – I want to look forwards to the future.
“Like we know, my co-driver Elliott [Edmondson] and I will travel with Hyundai Motorsport for the recce for Rally Japan and I’m really excited for that. I love Japan and I’m excited to look at this new event.
“Before that, we will do the Cambrian in the Polo.
“I have talked a lot with my sponsors about the situation and they agreed that the best thing for me to do is to drive again. I am very fortunate to have a car and the chance to do this – so we go to Wales!”
Three years ago Llandudno was home to Britain’s now non-existent WRC round. It was the start of Solberg’s adventure. He’s been through an awful lot since then. He’s ridden the WRC’s own emotional rollercoaster.
“That was the rally where my father finished his final WRC round and he won WRC2,” said Oliver. “The podium was amazing when he was celebrating the win and saying goodbye.
“It will be really nice to be back in Llandudno again and driving those roads. The organisers for the event have helped a lot with bringing me and the team over and, again, I couldn’t do this without my brilliant sponsors: Monster Energy and HTB Racing.
“Now, I am so looking forward to driving again. We have some proper, proper roads to enjoy and that’s what we’re going to do. I’m not looking to the times or to anything like that, I just want to enjoy myself and drive with a smile.”
The Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally starts with two asphalt stages on Friday October 28 before the cars hit the famous gravel roads the next day.