Oliver Solberg can hardly be considered a newcomer to the WRC – in some respects it feels like his whole life has revolved around the championship.
Currently rising through the WRC field are a generation of drivers with strong rallying pedigrees. Over the course of the next week, we take a look at some of these drivers following in their father’s (and mother’s) footsteps, beginning with Sweden’s Oliver Solberg.
The plan was a simple one last year. As part of his ‘Farewell Tour’ Petter Solberg would be waving to the good and the great and generally enjoying being lauded for the three-time FIA World Champion he is.
Goodwood’s world-famous Festival of Speed was one stop on the tour. At the final-day shoot-out up the hill, Petter was on typically fast form, finishing second.
But Petter wasn’t the Solberg on everybody’s lips in England’s south last summer. It was his then 17-year-old son Oliver.
Desperately chasing his father’s time, Oliver had taken a wild line through the first corner, apparently dancing on the edge of oblivion in a 600BHP DS 3. Solberg Jr’s outrageous car control and natural flair had had everybody on their toes, while leaving their jaws on the floor.
And Oliver’s progression hasn’t stopped since. At Rally Estonia in September, he took his maiden WRC 3 success – and finished in the top 10 overall – on just his fourth start at rallying’s highest level.
“We could see from a really early age that Oliver had this potential,” said Petter. “You could see he had a real understanding, a real good feeling when he was on a quad bike or something like that.”
There’s nothing new to having a rally-driving father, but Oliver’s gone one better than most. His mother Pernilla was, in her time, developing into one of the fastest rally drivers in the Production Car category of the WRC.
Pernilla: “Like you can imagine, for Oliver, cars were everything. When Petter was driving for Subaru and Oliver was still really young, he just wanted to be with him all the time. He wanted to be in that environment, and he’s grown up in it.”
Oliver, for his part, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “When we are at home, we don’t talk about anything else really. I love it! My parents have been really good, they don’t give me any pressure at all. When I went to drive for Subaru in America last year, the first thing they knew about it was when I told them I needed a flight ticket to go for my first test!”
Petter smiles at the memory.
“That’s true, actually,” he said. “Pernilla and me were sitting down and Oliver came in and told us, “Hey, I’m a Subaru driver too now!” It was quite a nice moment.
“All we want is the same like any parent, we want him to be happy and enjoy what he’s doing. It’s fantastic that he’s in this sport, but he’s there because he’s Oliver – not because he’s a Solberg. What can he do? I don’t know. I know what he wants to do, but it’s still early now. He still has a lot of experience to take and a lot of learning to do.”