Oliver Solberg’s goal for 2023 was simple. Be fast. Really fast. Then see what happens.
After wrapping up his 2023 World Rally Championship campaign with another impressive WRC2 victory at Rally Chile, and again winning the most stages in the process, he proved once more that he’s fastest in the class this year.
But over the course of a challenging Chile weekend, Solberg proved more than just speed. His ability to manage a rally, and in particular to manage his tires, shone through.
Learning from overworking his rubber on a difficult Saturday morning loop, the Swede decided to play the long game in the afternoon, conserving his tires on the first two stages before delivering a knockout punch on SS12 – taking nearly a minute out of closest rival Sami Pajari and snatching a rally lead which he would never relinquish.
It was a stout piece of strategic thinking, and proof that the 22-year-old can deliver more than just quick stage times – a satisfying end to a year in which Solberg accomplished much.
After securing the win in his last WRC round before 2024, Solberg told DirtFish: “For sure I think it’s important [to end the season that way].
“I showed a strong, consistent, strategic weekend, to be honest. I showed my speed, I showed I can win, I showed I can be strategic. I feel I showed a lot this year. So definitely very happy.”
In saving perhaps his best performance of 2023 until last, Solberg has surely at least put himself in the conversation for a return to Rally1 machinery next year. So what does he make of his chances?
“I wish I had something. But I absolutely have zero. So we’ll see. I’m working hard at the moment to see what we can come up with.
“Like I said before, the dream is to come back to Rally1. But if it doesn’t happen, that’s life, and then I try to find a good plan for WRC2, and try to do more races.”
There’s a slight sense of pessimism in his response, but Solberg can at least be satisfied that despite missing out on the WRC2 title, he’s been one of, if not the standout driver of the year.
And in case you’d forgotten, his biggest challenge of 2023 is yet to come. Oliver certainly hasn’t.
“I have the most important rally yet to go, it’s the RAC Rally. That will be cool,” he said.
“Ford Escort, five days, no powersteering. So my training program starts now.”