Oliver Solberg keeps it in the family with €100,000 FIA ERC Junior prize-drive present to cousin Oscar
Oliver Solberg has made the ultimate gesture to get his cousin Oscar Solberg’s international rallying career back on track in the FIA ERC Junior Championship.
The teenage talent is forgoing €100,000 – his prize for winning the 2020 FIA ERC1 Junior Championship – to enable Oscar Solberg, 25, to contest ERC Junior, which is for Rally3 cars from 2021, in a Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3 from M-Sport Poland.
With Oliver Solberg’s training mission in the ERC complete, his step up to the FIA World Rally Championship has gone so well that he’s currently preparing for his second start in a Hyundai i20 Coupe World Rally Car on this week’s Safari Rally Kenya.
And having taken the World Rally Championship by storm, the younger Solberg has made the decision not to take up his ERC prize drive in 2021, transferring the incentive to Oscar Solberg, whose father Henning enjoyed success at the top of the sport.
Because the support from ERC promoter Eurosport Events is allocated for an ERC1 campaign, Solberg’s father, Petter, made a request for the prize to be transferred to his nephew, which has been approved by Eurosport Events and governing body, the FIA.
“Oliver Solberg followed a path taken by so many young, talented rally drivers by gaining vital experience in the ERC on international-standard events against high-level competition,” said Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator. “His progression has been hugely impressive, and we are delighted to see him enjoying such a strong start to his career in the World Rally Championship with Hyundai Motorsport. While we would have welcomed Oliver back to the ERC with open arms, it’s so good that he’s been able to take the next step in his career. Rather than letting the prize go to waste, we were keen to work on a solution with Oliver and his family and his gesture to pass the prize to his cousin Oscar should be commended. It also ensures the next Solberg chapter in the ERC will be written as Oscar is clearly a big talent who will be one to watch in the new era of ERC Junior at the wheel of the all-new Ford Fiesta Rally3 from M-Sport Poland.”
Oscar Solberg: I wouldn’t be doing this without Oliver
Oscar Solberg said he was “shocked” when confirmation came through that he will compete in the FIA ERC Junior Championship in a Ford Fiesta Rally3 from M-Sport Poland fitted with Pirelli tyres. The 25-year-old Norwegian had resigned himself to a season in his domestic championship aboard an ageing Volvo 242 when he got news that his return to international rallying would be possible.
“I’m a little bit shocked actually,” Solberg said. “I was just focusing on the Norwegian championship in an old Volvo when I got the news and I don’t think it will register until I am putting on my helmet before the first stage on Rally Liepāja next week. This is very big for me and without this from Oliver I would not be here, so I am very grateful.”
Solberg’s career to date has been full of promise but short on funds, which led to his planned 2020 FIA Junior World Rally Championship campaign being curtailed after one event.
“Everything is coming so fast,” said Solberg. “I just need to find my rhythm and go with it. Hopefully I can show something good and something good will come out of this. Rally3 is a new class, it looks exciting, and although I have not driven the car yet, I was driving Group N cars when I was starting in 2016 so I have some four-wheel-drive experience and I know the Fiesta.”
Of the prospect of emulating his cousin’s ERC achievements, Oscar added: “Me and him we love rallying a lot, he has been driving a little bit more than me but when we were kids, he knows me in the video games, and when we are driving quad bikes, and I think he thinks I’m quite good. When we are driving video games, we are exactly the same on every split. I don’t think I’m the fastest, but we’ll see after the first few stages in Latvia what I can do.”
Solberg begins his ERC Junior campaign on Rally Liepāja in Latvia from July 1-3. The 2021 FIA ERC Junior champion will receive an FIA Junior WRC drive in 2022 as their prize.
Oliver Solberg: ERC is a fantastic place to start your career
Oliver Solberg stepped up to the FIA World Rally Championship’s top tier for 2021 as the winner of last season’s FIA ERC1 Junior Championship following a final-round showdown with fellow young talent Grégoire Munster. He won Rally Liepāja outright – a feat he also achieved in 2019 – and was a podium finisher on Rally di Roma Capitale.
“The ERC is a fantastic place to start your career, build experience and learn the proper speed,” said the 19-year-old Swede. “There are many great races, a lot of races you can learn a lot from because all the races are so different. It’s a fantastic championship with very tough competition, world championship level and the guys are really, really tough to beat. The ERC also has great TV and is very professional.
“I had a great year in the ERC. I did my first pure Tarmac rally and ended up on the podium by beating many of the top guys. Then after, coming back to Liepāja, where I won the year before, put some pressure on me but I managed to win again against some world championship drivers so for sure that was really cool. Every event is so different so it was a great opportunity for me to learn and we managed to take the ERC Junior title. Because you learn a lot and the drivers are top level it’s a great step for the WRC. And my cousin is really fast so watch out.”
Jérôme Roussel, Category Manager – Regional Rally, FIA said: “We are happy to authorise Oliver Solberg to transfer his prize for winning the FIA ERC1 Junior Championship to his cousin, Oscar. Oliver is clearly ready to take the next step in his career, while in Oscar the new Rally3-based FIA ERC Junior Championship welcomes another driver with a successful record at international who remains committed to reaching the top of the sport.”
Maciej Woda, Managing Director, M-Sport Poland: “I am really looking forward to working with Oscar, I remember working with his father Henning and have very fond memories so it’s quite special to welcome Oscar to M-Sport Poland for his ERC Junior campaign. This is an amazing story for rallying and I have to say hats off to Oliver for such a kind and generous thought. It’s going to be an intense few weeks for Oscar with Rally Liepāja, a fast gravel event right around the corner and then the intense Tarmac of Rally di Roma Capitale three weeks later. Jon Armstrong proved in Poland the Fiesta Rally3 is a driver-friendly car that doesn’t require specialist experience to get on top of which should help Oscar settle into a good rhythm throughout the year. I would also like to say a special thank you to ERC, Pirelli and Eurosport Events for working with Oliver to allow Oscar to embark upon this new chapter of his rallying career.”