Oliver Solberg’s miserable Rally of Portugal Sunday morning had been coming, it seems, since Spain last year.
The 21-year-old lost his WRC2 lead after a one-minute penalty from the stewards demoted him to second place on the Matosinhos-based event.
After winning in Catalunya, Sébastien Ogier’s celebratory donuts in Salou last October sparked rule change which was voted on by WRC Commission (voting is carried out by the event organizers, the teams and WRC Promoter under guidance from the FIA).
From that point on, regulations dictated a “minimum five-minute penalty for exhibition driving”.
Performing donuts is considered exhibition driving.
The rule has been carried in supplementary regulations for every round of the World Rally Championship since then.
The reason the stewards showed leniency and didn’t apply the full five minutes was because of the positioning of the donuts.
Solberg spun his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 between the flying finish and the stop-line of Saturday night’s Lousada test – an area “set up for competitive driving and defined by concrete barriers”.
Solberg made no comment on the penalty.
A rival co-driver sympathized but pointed out: “We’ve known since Spain we can only do this when it expressly says so in the supplementary regulations. In all of the regs since Spain, we’ve been told we can’t do this.
“It’s tough, everybody wants to make a show and the fans love this kind of thing. It’s tough, but ultimately the stewards did what they had to do.”